A citizen scientist who has been working with NASA managed to find a cold and old dying star that may be able to offer a window into the future of our solar system.
When we say future, we don’t mean an immediate future, but one that will come billions of years from now.
Detecting an anomaly in the sky
Why searching through data collected by the European Space Agency’s Gaia spacecraft, Melina Thévenot, a citizen scientist from Germany, detected an abnormality.
It seems that at first, the woman believes it was just all bad data, and after that, she looked at the source of the images from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission.
Then, she decided the data might be valuable and gave it to the team working on the Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 citizen scientist project.
The leads of the projects decided that this is worth taking a look at and they repositioned the Keck II telescope in Hawaii to take a closer look, as CNET reveals.
The oldest, coldest white dwarf star
While they were focused on the tiny spot in the sky, Keck II confirmed the blip wasn’t bad data, but instead, “it was the oldest, coldest white dwarf we’ve ever spotted and it is circled by a peculiar set of dusty rings,” according to the reports coming from CNET.
“This white dwarf is so old that whatever process is feeding material into its rings must operate on billion-year timescales,” said John Debes, an astronomer and lead author on the study.
He continued and explained that “This star is really challenging our assumptions of how planetary systems evolve.”
Called J0207 (or LSPM J0207+3331 for the purists), the newly discovered dead star features about the same size as our planet and it’s located around 145 light-years from Earth.
The experts believe that the star has two disks of dusty material and this is the very first white dwarf to flaunt such a phenomenon. Check out more details on CNET’s original article.
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