Scientists discover mysterious remnants of the solar system in deep space

Scientists discover mysterious remnants of the solar system in deep space

Scientists discover mysterious remnants of the solar system in deep space

We know that space teeming with mystery. Adding to the intrigue, astronomers recently found an ancient solar system far different from our cosmic home.

Some 90 light-years away, researchers have spotted a white dwarf star over 10 billion years old – meaning the remnant hot core of a dead star similar to the sun – which is surrounded by a graveyard of broken planet pieces, called planetesimals. The faint star pulled debris from these objects. But this solar system is unlike anything around us. It is rich in elements such as lithium and potassium. Most importantly, there are no planets inside our solar system have such a composition.

Why this ancient solar system was in our early years The Milky Way Galaxy so different? How did he get rich with these materials, which were rare at the time?

“It’s a complete mystery,” Abbigail Elms, a PhD student at the University of Warwick who researches white dwarfs, told Mashable. The research was published this week in a scientific journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

As stated above, this solar system is old. This means that the white dwarf (named WDJ2147-4035) and its surrounding solar system formed and died before the Sun and Earth were even born. In fact, pieces of former planets around WDJ2147-4035 are The oldest planetesimals ever found in our galaxy surround a white dwarf, Elms noted.

How do astronomers know what this archaic solar system consisted of?

They discovered this white dwarf, and another one of a similar age, using an observatory in space called Gaia. As it orbits the Sun, this distant spacecraft maps the stars and galaxies in the cosmos. After spotting these white dwarfs, the researchers then turned to an instrument called the “X-Shooter,” located at a high altitude in Chile, to find out what is and isn’t present in the star’s atmosphere (the X-Shooter is a type of an extremely valuable astronomical tool called a “spectrometer”). In WDJ2147-4035, they found that chemicals like lithium, potassium and sodium had accreted — or been drawn in by gravity and accumulated around — the ancient star. White dwarfs are made of hydrogen or helium, so the rocky remnants of the planets were responsible for supplying other unique elements, the researchers concluded (conducting simulations of the evolution of this solar system).

An artist’s rendering of the parts of the planets (planetesimals) orbiting white dwarf stars.
Credit: University of Warwick / Mark Garlick

Interestingly, the second white dwarf (WDJ1922+0233) they discovered is significantly different from the mysterious one. It is more famous. They found that this star had dragged in planetary debris similar to Earth’s rocky crust. So while one solar system remains an anomaly, the other shows that Earth is not so unique in the cosmos: there are other solar systems somewhat similar to it.

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These two solar systems, however, are filled with graveyards of former planets. Over 95 percent of stars, like the Sun, evolve into white dwarfs. Towards the end of their lives, they expand into colossal red giants, destroying or disrupting nearby objects. As our Sun expands, it will swallow up planets like Mercury, Venus, and perhaps even Earth, before shedding its outer layers. Red giants will leave behind relics of shattered planets and moons. The very star of the rest will be a white dwarf.

This is our cosmic destiny. Just not for long, long, long.

“Our sun will evolve into a white dwarf in about 5 billion years,” Elms said.

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