An international group of astronomers has detected a gas giant exoplanet larger than Jupiter, moving around a dead white dwarf star near the center of our galaxy.
According to the researchers, this could be an example of what our solar system would look like billions of years from now when the Sun reaches the final stages of its life.
The researchers, led by Joshua Blackman of the University of Tasmania, accidentally detected the system with the Kek telescope, in Hawaii, using the gravitational microfiche technique.
This white dwarf is estimated to be 60 percent the mass of our Sun and its massive exoplanet (MOA2010BLG477Lb) is 40 percent more massive than Jupiter, 2.8 astronomical units distant from its parent star.
“Our observations confirm that planets that are in orbit far enough from their star can continue to exist after the star dies,” said Blackman.
“Since this system is analogous to our own solar system, it seems that Jupiter and Saturn may survive after our Sun turns into a red giant, when it runs out of nuclear fuel and self-destructs,” he added.
A white dwarf is what remains of a star like the Sun. In the last stages of its life cycle, the star burns all the hydrogen in its core and inflates like a balloon, becoming a red giant.
Scientists believe that at least half of the white dwarfs have companion exoplanets and do not rule out that they may have favorable living conditions for the host.