Astronomers have reported the first indirect evidence of a giant planet orbiting a white dwarf star (WDJ0914+1914). 

White dwarf Planet:

  • It is, as the name implies, small, typically only slightly bigger than Earth. 
  • This planet is thought to be at least twice as big as its star.
  • It orbits its star in only about 10 Earth-day. 

Key points of the Finding:

  • The researchers used the Slogan Digital Sky Survey to peer at 7,000 white dwarf stars before finding one – WDJ0914+1914 – that showed evidence of harboring a giant planet. 

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) 

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) 

  • It is one of the largest, most detailed, and most often cited astronomical surveys that has ever existed, with the goal of expanding our understanding of the large-scale evolution and structure of the universe, the formation of stars and galaxies, the history of the Milky Way, and the science behind dark energy. 
  • This white dwarf is 1500 light-years away in the direction of the constellation Cancer the Crab
  • The Neptune-like planet orbits the white dwarf every ten days, and cannot be seen directly. 
  • The evidence is in the form of a disc of gas (hydrogen, oxygen and sulphur) formed from its evaporating atmosphere. 
  • The White Dwarf Planet is evaporating (Reason: although the white dwarf is very small, it is still extremely hot, about 50,432 degrees Fahrenheit (28,000 degrees Celsius)).
  • Spikes of gas were detected by the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory in Chile.
  • The study suggests there could be many more planets around such white dwarf stars waiting to be discovered.

Significance of the Discovery:

  • Only smaller objects such as asteroids had been detected so far around the white dwarf stars. 
  • This is the first evidence of an actual planet in such a system.