A giant planet candidate transiting a white dwarf

Vanderburg, Andrew and Rappaport, Saul A. and Xu, Siyi and Crossfield, Ian J. M. and Becker, Juliette C. and Gary, Bruce and Murgas, Felipe and Blouin, Simon and Kaye, Thomas G. and Palle, Enric and Melis, Carl and Morris, Brett M. and Kreidberg, Laura and Gorjian, Varoujan and Morley, Caroline V. and Mann, Andrew W. and Parviainen, Hannu and Pearce, Logan A. and Newton, Elisabeth R. and Carrillo, Andreia and Zuckerman, Ben and Nelson, Lorne and Zeimann, Greg and Brown, Warren R. and Tronsgaard, Rene and Klein, Beth and Ricker, George R. and Vanderspek, Roland K. and Latham, David W. and Seager, Sara and Winn, Joshua N. and Jenkins, Jon M. and Adams, Fred C. and Benneke, Bjorn and Berardo, David and Buchhave, Lars A. and Caldwell, Douglas A. and Christiansen, Jessie L. and Collins, Karen A. and Colon, Knicole D. and Daylan, Tansu and Doty, John and Doyle, Alexandra E. and Dragomir, Diana and Dressing, Courtney and Dufour, Patrick and Fukui, Akihiko and Glidden, Ana and Guerrero, Natalia M. and Guo, Xueying and Heng, Kevin and Henriksen, Andreea I. and Huang, Chelsea X. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0918-7484 and Kaltenegger, Lisa and Kane, Stephen R. and Lewis, John A. and Lissauer, Jack J. and Morales, Farisa and Narita, Norio and Pepper, Joshua and Rose, Mark E. and Smith, Jeffrey C. and Stassun, Keivan G. and Yu, Liang (2020) A giant planet candidate transiting a white dwarf. Nature, 585 (7825). ISSN 0028-0836


Astronomers have discovered thousands of planets outside the Solar System1, most of which orbit stars that will eventually evolve into red giants and then into white dwarfs. During the red giant phase, any close-orbiting planets will be engulfed by the star2, but more distant planets can survive this phase and remain in orbit around the white dwarf3,4. Some white dwarfs show evidence for rocky material floating in their atmospheres5, in warm debris disks6–9 or orbiting very closely10–12, which has been interpreted as the debris of rocky planets that were scattered inwards and tidally disrupted13. Recently, the discovery of a gaseous debris disk with a composition similar to that of ice giant planets14 demonstrated that massive planets might also find their way into tight orbits around white dwarfs, but it is unclear whether these planets can survive the journey. So far, no intact planets have been detected in close orbits around white dwarfs. Here we report the observation of a giant planet candidate transiting the white dwarf WD 1856+534 (TIC 267574918) every 1.4 days. We observed and modelled the periodic dimming of the white dwarf caused by the planet candidate passing in front of the star in its orbit. The planet candidate is roughly the same size as Jupiter and is no more than 14 times as massive (with 95 per cent confidence). Other cases of white dwarfs with close brown dwarf or stellar companions are explained as the consequence of common-envelope evolution, wherein the original orbit is enveloped during the red giant phase and shrinks owing to friction. In this case, however, the long orbital period (compared with other white dwarfs with close brown dwarf or stellar companions) and low mass of the planet candidate make common-envelope evolution less likely. Instead, our findings for the WD 1856+534 system indicate that giant planets can be scattered into tight orbits without being tidally disrupted, motivating the search for smaller transiting planets around white dwarfs.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2022 01:43
Last Modified: 31 May 2022 03:26
Uncontrolled Keywords: astronomy; comparative study; solar system; Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics; Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics
Fields of Research (2020): 51 PHYSICAL SCIENCES > 5101 Astronomical sciences > 510109 Stellar astronomy and planetary systems
Identification Number or DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2713-y
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/47376

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