Historic first as Jupiter-sized planet found orbiting white dwarf in Milky Way

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In the same week that Captain Kirk boldly went into space, for real, astronomers have found a new “Jupiter-sized” planet orbiting a dead star in the Milky Way.

Given a name that rolls straight off the tongue – MOA2010BLG477Lb – the planet was discovered by staff at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, where a team from Australia and New Zealand are now staying to study the system in more detail, according to the The Daily Mail.

Dubbed a “gas giant”, it was apparently able to survive the death of its host star, but is around 6,500 light years away.

The new planet is estimated to be around 1.4 times the size of Jupiter, and is two and a half times further from its star than the Earth is from the Sun.

And, what makes it more historic is that MOA2010BLG477Lb is the first world of its kind to have been discovered orbiting a white dwarf – which is a very dense star, often cramming the mass of the sun into a body similar in size to the Earth.

Leading the search as astronomer Joshua Blackman.

His team found that the planet formed at the same time as the host star, “rather than forming from the debris left behind when the star shed its outer layers,” he said.

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He added: “It is likely to represent an analogue to the end stages of the Sun and Jupiter in our own Solar System.”

The findings have been published in the journal Nature.

Themiya Nanayakkara, an astronomer at the Swinburne University of Technology, who was not involved in the research, told The Guardian that the discovery suggested “outer gas giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn could survive the death of the sun”.

“It rules out theories in the past that say you can’t have planets around white dwarfs,” Nanayakkara said.

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