Humanity has identified thousands of explanations, so we’ve got a great handle on where you think you’ll find them. And yet, the universe amazes us. A new study led by Andrew Vanderberg of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has revealed a possible explanation for a distance of about 60 light-years. Although the solar system is very strange. The planet is finally orbiting stars, a dead star known as a white dwarf. If confirmed, this first-of-its-kind discovery could change our understanding of the life cycle of stars.
The star in question is known as WD 1856 and it was probably a bit like the Sun in the past. When it ran out of fuel about 6 billion years ago, WD 1856 exploded in its mass, leaving an exposed core of super-dense “electron-degradable matter” that we call the white dwarf. On the way to becoming a white dwarf, WD 1856 turned into a gigantic shape. Yet, scientists believed that a star approaching the end of its life would encircle and destroy a large planet in orbit in this way. Nevertheless, astronomers examining data from the Transiting Explanate Survey Satellite (TSEC) and ground-based telescopes believe that a gas giant WD 1856 is orbiting.
The team made the temporarily mysterious planet WWW 1856b. Like many “normal” solar systems, scientists detected 1856 BWD through the transit method. This involves seeing distant stars for a long time in anticipation of diving into luminance. If these dips repeat, it could prove that an explanate is moving in front of the star. Kepler’s mission was to identify thousands of candidate planets – TSES does the same thing but focuses on objects within hundreds of light-years.
Larger explanations with faster orbital periods are easier to identify and WD 1856B certainly fits that description. Thanks to data from the now-offline Spitzer Telescope, the team is confident that this planet is about 14 times larger than Jupiter, which is already a very large planet in the Grand Scheme. It orbits 185 watts per day at 1.4 Earth, trapping about half the light from the core of a dead star.
This raises the question, how could WD 1856B have survived the red giant stage of the stars? Two possible explanations were given in the study. One, it could initially orbit much farther away but the death of the star disrupted its orbit as it moved inward. Alternatively, the planet was always closer to the star, and the expansion moved several layers of its atmosphere away. According to the authors, this is a very unlikely scenario.
To study this bizarre solar system in more detail, we urgently need new instruments, such as the delayed James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The telescope can even orbit this dead star and find more intact planets. If we knew what happened to WD in 1856, it could provide a preview of what our solar system would look like in billions of years.