The WET program discovers a new planet near old star | MAO

The WET program discovers a new planet near old star

An international team of astronomers is one step closer to answering the question, ‘Will the world end with a bang or a whimper?’ Using an array of telescopes around the globe, a team of 23 researchers led by Italian astronomer Dr Roberto Silvotti of the Observatorio Astronomico di Capodimonte in Naples has spent seven years investigating the pulses of the star V391 Pegasi. This international collaboration has resulted in the discovery of a new planet — Peg V392b — the oldest planet known so far in the universe. ‘The Peg V391 star unlike our sun, has already passed the ‘red giant’ stage of its life. It is presently shrinking, on its way to becoming a ‘white dwarf’ and dying,’ he explains. ‘Because a planet associated with Peg V391 has now been found, for the first time astronomers will be able to study the effect a dying sun has on its planet. This will help draw conclusions about what will happen to planet Earth when our sun starts dying in about 5 billion years. The discovery suggests that earth, which is at a distance from the sun comparable to the distance of V391 Peg b from its sun, may be able to survive an apocalypse in 5 billion years time, when our sun runs out of hydrogen fuel and starts swelling into a red giant. The scientists involved in this research believe that V391 Peg b has survived through the red giant phase of its sun, which now burns helium rather than hydrogen. Critical to the discovery of V391 Peg b was the world association WET — for Whole Earth Telescope — a group of cooperating observatories on almost every continent. During certain periods of the year, all of the participants view and measure the radiation of a specific star over the course of a few consecutive nights. The star Pegasi V391 was one of the target stars of this network.