Author: Eric Mack
This artist’s impression shows a massive, comet-like object falling towards a white dwarf. New observations with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope show evidence for a belt of comet-like bodies orbiting the white dwarf, similar to the Kuiper Belt in our own Solar System. The findings also suggest the presence of one or more unseen surviving planets around the white dwarf which may have perturbed the belt sufficiently to hurl icy objects into the burned-out star.
ESA/Hubble [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]
They've been destroyed by their suns but still sing a sad song. And one day it's going to happen here, too.
Distant, dead planets stripped down to their cores by the stars they orbit still broadcast their presence to the cosmos, and scientists are hoping to tune in.
When certain stars, likely including our own sun, reach the end of their lifespan they can expand into a red giant that burns all nearby planets to a crisp, leaving just orbiting metallic cores. The huge star then sheds its own outer layers, transforming into a dimming remnant called a white dwarf.
The magnetic field between a white dwarf and the lingering core corpses of orbiting former planets can form a circuit that emits radio waves, which can be picked up by radio telescopes here on Earth.
Now, a team that includes the co-discoverer of the first exoplanets is planning to search for these creepy dead planets by detecting their zombie radio signals.
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