Humanity has been around for 300,000 years, more or less a millennium. It may seem like a long time when the average human lives a few decades at most, but it’s really just a cosmic blink of an eye. Even if Homo sapiens exceeds all expectations and survives both political conflict and climate change, the sun will eventually turn the Earth to ashes. However, a new discovery from the WM Keck Observatory in Hawaii suggests that there may be hope that at least one planet will survive the future cataclysm. Around a distant stellar corpse, astronomers have spotted a surviving gas giant planet for the first time. Could this mean that Jupiter is destined to survive the agony of the sun?
We think the Earth is a constant, but no matter what we do or don’t do, we have about a billion years left here. The sun heats up as it ages and uses its nuclear fuel, and eventually it will evaporate the earth’s oceans and scorch the atmosphere. Even if life somehow survives this, in a few more billion years the sun will develop into a red giant that will completely consume the Earth. We always thought that the ferocious effects of the Red Giant’s transformation would tear all the planets apart, but maybe not.
The solar system in question is near the center of our Milky Way galaxy, and we know it has at least one exoplanet. The team discovered the giant planet through the gravitational microlens, which occurs when the gravity of a foreground object (like a star) magnifies a farther object. If there is a planet orbiting the star, as is the case here, it causes a detectable distortion of the light as it passes.
When the team examined the star itself, they were surprised to find that she was not bright enough to be a main sequence star. They also found out that it couldn’t be a brown dwarf or a “failed star”. And that means the object housing this ancient gas giant is a white dwarf, an ultra-dense remnant of a sun-like star.
This planet is large, about 40 percent larger than Jupiter. Still, the team thinks it could give us a glimpse of what our solar system will look like in five billion years. Maybe Jupiter will survive the cataclysm – maybe some of its moons will even survive the cataclysm. As the sun warms up, anyone alive on Earth could end up taking a break for Jupiter’s moons, which could get quite temperate for a few hundred thousand years. There has also been speculation that Saturn’s moon, Titan, could be hot enough to support life. Astronomers are eagerly awaiting NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Telescope, which should be able to image massive exoplanets like this directly in the mid-2020s. Then we might find out that it’s more or less like our little one. corner of the universe.
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