"White Dwarf" by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Scott Wiessinger / Public Domain

Astronomers Discover First Known Planet to Orbit a White Dwarf Star

Sep 16, 2020

By George Dvorsky

The unprecedented discovery of a Jupiter-sized planet in orbit around a white dwarf star suggests it’s possible for planets to survive the tumultuous death throes of their parent stars.

Imagine a dim, late-stage star roughly the size of Earth with a gigantic Jupiter-sized planet orbiting around it every 34 hours. It would be a bizarre sight, with the smaller but denser object seemingly in control of the visually mismatched celestial configuration. A white dwarf could fit inside Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, to give you a sense of how odd this star system would look.

Such a system actually exists, according to new research published today. As Ian Crossfield, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Kansas and a co-author of the study, explained in an email, it’s “the first clear discovery of a planet orbiting a white dwarf.” The new study, published in Nature, was led by astronomer Andrew Vanderburg from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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