Astronomers discover a planet that survived its home star's eruption. It has survived despite its star exploding
Our sun has a time limit. Around 5 billion years from now, it will reach the end of its life. What will our solar system look like after the sun's death? Astronomers have discovered a distant solar system that suggests the fate of the planets in our own. Jupiter may survive, but Earth will most likely be hit.
A recent study in Nature describes a Jupiter-like planet in ion-type orbit around hexavalent, white dwarf stars. The system is located near the center of the Milky Way and its discovery by the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii shows that some of our own planets may exist even after our star goes through its inevitable end-of-life tantrum in the far distant future.
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Joshua Blackman, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tasmania in Australia, said, "This evidence suggests that planets orbiting at incredibly long distances may continue to exist after their star's death." "Considering that this system is an analog to our own solar system, it suggests that Jupiter and Saturn might survive the sun's red giant phase, when it runs out of nuclear fuel and self-destructs."
Our sun is expected to go through a few phases when it dies. It will be a red giant, describing it as "the most violent time in astrology's history." Earth will take a beating and be uninhabited and, most likely, destroyed.
Next up, the sun will settle into its white dwarf appearance as a cooling and fading star. That's the type of star on which the astronomers discovered the Jupiter-like planet orbiting. Keck Observatory shared a video clip of what that distant solar system and its survivor planet may have experienced.
Co-author David Bennett of the University of Maryland and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center suggested a move to jupiter and Saturn'' moons may be worth considering. That assumes that humanity is still around. It also means that our long-term ambitions for interplanetary life should include a look at some of Jupiter's attractive moons, such as Europa, which is the target of an upcoming NASA mission.
Moving to Jupiter's neighborhood wouldn't solve all our problems. As Bennett noted, "...we wouldn't be able to rely on the sun's heat as a white dwarf for very long."
Several recent papers, including a 2020 paper describing octopus that avoided destruction by its own star, show that survival is conceivable despite these stars' tendency to go out in soaring glory. Scientists are still figuring out how common or rare this may be.
Our sun's demise is not a pressing issue for humanity, but it' is an excellent idea to think ahead. A highly optimistic, sci-fi-inspired vision could see a far-reaching human civilization reaching out to live beyond Earth and Mars and even Jupiter, but all the way into other solar systems long before our planet is destroyed.