Feeds

Astronomers detect red giant survivor planet

10 billion years old

3 Big data security analytics techniques

Italian astronomers have detected a planet that survived the red giant expansion of its home star. The researchers say that the discovery could be a sneak peek at the fate that awaits the Earth, some four or five billion years from now.

Artist's impression of the surviving planet.

The surviving planet was discovered by an international team of more than twenty astronomers, headed by Roberto Silvotti, researcher at the INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Capodimonte.

In the last five years, there has been a veritable explosion (no pun intended) in the number of extra-solar planets we have discovered. But at an age of roughly 10 billion years, V 391 Pegasi b is by far the oldest, and the first to be seen orbiting a post-red-giant star.

The red giant phase of stellar evolution takes place when a sun-like star has exhausted all its hydrogen. The star then expands massively, swelling to a size that would easily engulf the inner planets in our solar system. The Earth is right on the limit of that expansion zone, and V 391 Pegasi b orbits its star slightly beyond that limit.

Silvotti explains: "As far as our planets are concerned, we expect Mercury and Venus to disappear in the sun’s envelope, whereas Mars should survive. The fate of the Earth is less clear because its position is really at the limit. All this will happen in about five billion years, when the Earth will be more or less the same age as V 391 Pegasi b, i.e. ten billion years."

The team says the discovery was almost accidental. "While we were analysing the irregularities of V 391 Pegasi’s luminosity variations with a method called timing method, we began to suspect that these irregularities might have been caused by a planet," Silvotti says.

After seven years of further observations, the team felt confident in discarding other possible interpretations of the data and saying that the star was orbited by a planet. Direct observation of an alien world is still some way off.

"Neither with the largest telescopes available today, nor with those available tomorrow," Silvotti confirms. "But the future generations of telescopes will definitely make such a thing possible."

The work is published in today's edition of the journal Nature. ®

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
So, just how do you say 'the mutt's nuts' in French?
Vital linguistic question interrupts LOHAN spaceplane mission
95 floors in 43 SECONDS: Hitachi's new ultra-high-speed lift
Guangzhou skyscraper denizens to hold on to hats
Most Americans doubt Big Bang, not too sure about evolution, climate change – survey
Science no match for religion, politics, business interests
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN and the amazing technicolor spaceplane
Our Vulture 2 livery is wrapped, and it's les noix du mutt
Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts Dragon on third resupply mission to ISS
SpaceX snaps smartly into one-second launch window
STEALTHY NANOROBOTS dress up as viruses, prepare to sneak into YOUR BODY
Cloaking techniques nicked from viruses tackle roadblocks on way to medical frontier
Space station astronauts pop outside to replace crippled computer
Speedy space walk by snorkel-equipped spacemen followed by trash day
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.