NASA Citizen Scientist Discovers First Dead Star With Special Rings

white dwarf

NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center / Scott Wiessinger

A citizen scientist working with NASA has detected an old dying star that can give an idea of ​​the fate of our own solar system in billions of years.

Melina Thevenot, a German citizen, detected an anomaly by searching the data collected by the Gaia spacecraft of the European Space Agency. At first, she thought it was bad data, but when she looked at the source in NASA's Wide Survey Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) images, she decided that the data could be useful and forwarded them to the task team. Backyard Worlds: citizen citizen project Planet 9.

The people responsible for this project decided to follow up on the discovery, repositioning the Keck II telescope in Hawaii take a deeper look. Keck II confirmed that the blip was not bad data. It was the oldest and coldest white dwarf we have ever seen. He is surrounded by a particular ensemble. dusty rings. The discovery appears Tuesday in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"This white dwarf is so old that whatever the process that feeds the rings into materials, it must run on time scales of one billion years," said John Debes, astronomer and lead author. of the study. "This star really challenges our assumptions about how planetary systems evolve."

Nicknamed J0207 (or LSPM J0207 + 3331 for purists), the newly discovered dead star is about the size of the Earth and is about 145 light-years away from our planet. The team believes that the dead star has two discs of dusty material, the first white dwarf known to host such a strange phenomenon.

Generally, dusty discs form around these bodies when asteroids or comets are launched into the gravitational pull of the star. As they approach, the gravity of the dead star tears them apart, breaking them into pieces that revolve around the body. Oddly enough, the white dwarves of this old age do not generally keep their dusty discs – all the material is slowly falling into the star. Researchers are perplexed, but follow-up missions can solve the problem.

Curiously, the fate of this planetary system could foreshadow what will happen to the Earth. Eventually, our sun will become a "red giant" engulfing Mercury and Venus (maybe even Earth) as the Blob rolls on to America's small towns. This event would help tidy up the indoor solar system as a Marie Kondo cosmicand then see the star collapse into a white dwarf, its gravity dissipate and the planets at the periphery of the system move away.

NASA and collaborating scientific and educational institutions launched Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 in February 2017 as a citizen citizen who uses WISE data to research the so-called hidden planet at the edge of our solar system. More than 150,000 participants observed thousands of images generated by WISE to detect possible anomalies.

The project has already garnered many awards, with a brown dwarf, a kind of "failed star", discovered only six days after the project began, and more than a thousand similar objects discovered since.

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