When our sun is no longer able to sustain its fusion, gravity will crush the core down to a ball of “degenerate” matter about the size of the Earth. It will be what’s called a white dwarf. But what happens to the planets that surround the sun? That’s what is explored in a new paper, via Phys.Org:
Astronomers can’t see the future, but they can observe existing white dwarfs and look for clues to the fate of their planets.
G238-44 is about 86 light-years away and has a hydrogen-dominated atmosphere polluted with other elements, including carbon, neon, oxygen, sulfur, and iron. Twenty-four years of data from Keck shows a stable and continuous accretion of these materials from a circumstellar reservoir onto the white dwarf. The researchers also say they discovered “an anomalous abundance pattern and evidence for the presence of metallic iron.” Could the iron and the other elements come from a single parent body? Or are two bodies needed to explain the presence of all these materials?
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