A planet turning into a star could offer a glimpse of the end of the earth

An artistic concept of the Kepler 1658 system. Orbiting with an orbital period of just 3.8 days, Kepler-1658b was the first exoplanet candidate discovered by Kepler. Photo credit: Gabriel Perez Diaz/Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias

For the first time, astronomers have identified a planet heading for a catastrophic collision with its aging sun, potentially offering a glimpse of Earth’s end one day.

In a new study published Monday, a team of mostly US-based researchers said they hope the doomed exoplanet Kepler-1658b can help shed light on how worlds die when their stars grow older.

Kepler-1658b, located 2,600 light-years from Earth, is known as the “hot Jupiter” planet.

Although similar in size to Jupiter, the planet orbits its central star one-eighth the distance between our Sun and Mercury, making it far hotter than the gas giant in our own solar system.

Kepler-1658b’s orbit around its host star will take less than three days – and according to the data presented in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

“If it continues to spiral toward its star at the observed rate, the planet will collide with its star in less than three million years,” said Shreyas Vissapragada, a postdoctoral researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and lead author of the study.

“This is the first time we’ve seen direct evidence of a planet spiraling toward its evolved star,” he told AFP.

An evolved star has entered the “subgiant” phase of the stellar life cycle when it begins to expand and brighten.

Kepler-1658b’s orbit is shortened by the tides, much like the way Earth’s oceans rise and fall each day.

This gravitational push-and-pull can work both ways—for example, the moon spirals away from Earth very slowly.

Earth’s “Ultimate Adios”?

So, could Earth be heading for a similar fate?

“Death-by-Star is a fate thought to await many worlds and could be Earth’s ultimate adios billions of years from now as our sun ages,” the Center for Astrophysics said in a statement.

Vissapragada said that “in about five billion years, the sun will evolve into a red giant star.”

While the tidal-driven processes observed on Kepler-1658b “drive the decay of Earth’s orbit toward the Sun,” that effect could be offset by the Sun’s mass loss, he said.

“Earth’s ultimate fate is somewhat unclear,” he added.

Kepler-1658b was the first exoplanet ever observed by the Kepler space telescope, launched in 2009. However, it took nearly a decade of work to confirm the planet’s existence in 2019, the Center for Astrophysics said.

For 13 years, astronomers have observed the slow but steady change in the planet’s orbit as it crosses the face of its host star.

A “big surprise” was that the planet itself is quite bright, Vissapragada said.

This was previously thought to be because it’s a particularly reflective planet, he said.

But now researchers think the planet itself is much hotter than expected, possibly due to the same forces propelling it toward its star.

More information:
The possible tidal setting of Kepler’s first planetary system, The Letters of the Astrophysical Journal (2022). DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/aca47e

© 2022 AFP

Citation: Planet spiraling into star may offer a glimpse of the end of the earth (2022, December 24), retrieved December 24, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-12-planet-spiralling-star-glimpse -earth.html

This document is protected by copyright. Except for fair trade for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is for informational purposes only.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *