They locate a creepy planet similar to Earth but located in a “cosmic cemetery”

A strange new world: a spooky planet similar to Earth, but located in a “cosmic graveyard” with a dead star.
The new findings suggest that Earth-sized planets may be less likely than previously thought to survive the harsh conditions at the end of some stars’ lives. This means that the first exoplanet discovered outside our solar system 30 years ago may be much stranger than we thought.

Discovered in 1992 by astronomers Alex Wolszczan and Dale Frail, the planet PSR B1257+12B has about the same mass as Earth and orbits an exotic type of dead star called a pulsar. The revelation that followed this discovery was that the planet hosts at least two other worlds. These other planets orbiting the pulsar PSR B1257+12 are also similar in size to the rocky worlds in our solar system.

However, the largest ever study of a pulsar and its planets shows that these dead stars rarely have Earth-like companions. That makes this system, which NASA describes as a “graveyard” after the supernova that created PSR B1257+1, a rarity.

And conditions in a system located 2,300 light-years from Earth are no more hospitable. The pulsar at its center rotates every 6.22 milliseconds, or about 161 times per second, bombarding your planet with an intense and deadly beam of radiation detectable from Earth.

Not surprisingly, Pulsar is named “The Lich” after the powerful and evil undead creature of the same name in fantasy.

A study of 800 pulsars over the past 50 years by researchers at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in the UK showed that only 0.5 percent of them host Earth-mass planets. The researchers’ results are published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The finding deepens the mystery of how planets can survive around pulsars, which, like all neutron stars, form when massive stars reach the end of nuclear fusion and the external pressure holding them against gravitational collapse ceases.

The resulting collapse produces a massive supernova explosion, often powerful enough to eclipse all the stars in the host galaxy. Ultimately, this leaves a neutron star with a mass similar to that of the sun and a radius similar to a city on Earth. Neutron stars are made of the densest matter known in the universe: a single teaspoon of this matter would weigh 3.6 billion kilograms.

A pulsar is a special type of neutron star that emits brilliant radiation of radio waves due to its rapid rotation and powerful magnetic field.

“[A pulsar] produces a signal that sweeps across the Earth each time it rotates, similar to a cosmic lighthouse,” said Dr from the University of Manchester. student Iuliana-Camelia Nițu said in a statement. “These signals can then be picked up by radio telescopes and turned into a whole lot of amazing science.”

While many pulsars have been found to harbor alien worlds different from those found in the solar system, the violent environment surrounding the birth of pulsars and their persistence appears to lead to the formation of Earth-like planets around their contrails. .

Nițu is part of a team of astronomers from the University of Manchester that conducted the largest search for planets around pulsars to date, focusing on planets up to 100 times the mass of Earth and with orbital periods between 20 days and 17 years. .

They made ten possible detections of such worlds, and the system most likely to host such an exoplanet is PSR J2007+3120. The team believes that the pulsar, located 17,000 light-years from Earth, may host two planets with several times the mass of Earth and orbital periods of around 1.9 to 3.6 years each.

Astronomers have not found enough information to say that the planets around the pulsars have similar masses and orbital periods, but they seem to have something else in common: the exoplanets around the studied pulsars appear to have highly elliptical orbits, while those with orbits do not. almost circular. . Orbits of the planets of the solar system.

This may suggest that no matter how planets form around pulsars, these processes are different from the mechanisms that lead to planet formation in our solar system.

“Pulsars are very interesting and exotic objects. Exactly 30 years ago, the first exoplanet orbiting a pulsar was discovered, but we have yet to understand how these planets form and survive in such extreme conditions,” Nitzwu said in a statement. (Opens in a new tab). “Finding out how common they are and what they look like is a critical step toward that goal.”

The research will be presented on July 12 at the National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2022).


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