Planet orbiting white dwarf star may harbor life, scientists say


Scientists say they have found, near a dying sun, a planet that might be able to support life.

If confirmed, this would be the first time a potentially life-friendly planet has been found orbiting such a star, called a “white dwarf”.

The planet was detected in the star’s “habitable zone”, where it is neither too cold nor too hot, ideal for life.

The study was published by the Royal Astronomical Society.

Professor Jay Farihi of University College London, who led the study, said the observation was unprecedented.

“This is the first time that anything has been seen in the habitable zone of a white dwarf. And so there is the possibility of life on another world in that orbit,” he told BBC News.

Very large stars become black holes when they die, but smaller ones, like our own Sun, become white dwarfs — stars that have used up all their nuclear fuel and lost their outer layers.

They are usually the size of a planet and emit a bluish-white light when they form.

The possible planet, which is 117 light-years from Earth, is believed to be 60 times closer to its star than our planet is to the Sun.

The research team has no direct evidence for the planet’s existence — but the movements of 65 moon-sized structures orbiting the white dwarf’s habitable zone suggest it exists and is there. The distance of the structures from each other does not change, suggesting that they are under the influence of gravity from a nearby planet.

“It was a shock for the team,” said Farihi. “The movement was so frighteningly accurate you couldn’t come up with something like that.”

The habitable zone is a band around the star where water can exist in a liquid state on planets and therefore harbor life. This zone is also called the “Goldilocks zone,” because if the planet is too close to the star, the weather will be too hot, and if it’s too far away, it’s too cold, while within the band the conditions are “perfect”—exactly. as in the children’s story.

The results will spur astronomers to actively search for direct evidence of planets around white dwarfs.

“Usually in astronomy, if we find one, it usually means it’s a common phenomenon,” Farihi said.

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