Just when you think that you’ve seen it all and that nothing can shock you more, another amazing sighting baffles the minds of astronomers. A new research led by astronomers from the University of Warwick concluded that a huge exoplanet the size of Neptune is orbiting a white dwarf star that is about the size of Earth.
This is a very interesting discovery, at least for the fact that planets usually orbit around stars that are much larger. The white dwarf star involved is called WD J091405.30+191412.25 (a.k.a. WD J0914), and it’s located 1,500 light-years away from us. Its planet orbits around it every 10 days, leaving behind a trace of gas composed of hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur.
It’s a world premiere
Scientists haven’t found until today any other giant planet orbiting a white dwarf star. The lead author Dr. Boris Gänsicke from the University of Warwick, declared:
Until recently, very few astronomers paused to ponder the fate of planets orbiting dying stars. The discovery of a planet orbiting closely around a burnt-out stellar core forcefully demonstrates that the Universe is time and again challenging our minds to step beyond our established ideas,
The detected amounts of oxygen, hydrogen, and sulfur are very similar to those found in the atmosphere of icy and giant planets like Neptune.
The giant planet is slowly evaporating
The scientists involved in the study showed that the white dwarf star is slowly evaporating material into space. This happens by bombarding the material using high energy photons and pulling the lost mass into a gas disk.
Co-author Dr. Odette Toloza from the University of Warwick stated the following:
This is the first time we can measure the amounts of gases like oxygen and sulfur in the disk, which provides clues to the composition of exoplanet atmospheres,
It looks like astronomy is continuing to reach new heights, discovering new and unique stuff, without showing signs that it wants to stop. What could be next?