Scientists conducted a study to try to find out what will be left of our system after the Sun dies. Nothing very encouraging so far. But wait a bit, because the results, published this Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature, are conclusive. Indeed, researchers have proven that a giant gas planet, similar in size to Jupiter, has already survived the death of its host star, reports The Huffington Post.
This planet called MOA-2010-BLG477Lb was discovered in 2010 using a “gravitational microlens” technique, sensitive to cold planets. Joshua Blackman and his colleagues were able to determine that the planet and its host star had formed jointly, but that the first survived the death of the second.
It won’t all go away
In reality, the host star of the gas giant planet is a white dwarf. When a star has consumed all of its fuel in its nucleus, namely hydrogen, it grows and devours everything around it. Then, it shrinks until it becomes an ultra-dense structure: a white dwarf. What is therefore rare here is that the gas giant survived the explosion of its star, in a fairly close orbit.
The planet is indeed about 2.8 astronomical units (AU) from its host star. Typically, the orbital distance is 5-6 AU. Jupiter is, for example, 5.2 AU from our Sun. This study therefore shows that gas giant planets can survive the degeneration of their host star. But also, and above all, that everything does not therefore disappear in our system after the degeneration of our own star.