Astronomers have discovered the first known planet to survive the “red-giant” phase – a process whereby aging stars expand and engulf its orbiting bodies. The discovery of the “gas-giant planet” three times the size of Jupiter, shows an insight into the future of our own solar system. What will happen to the Earth when the sun grows old and collapses?
The planet is some 4,500 light-years from Earth. It once orbited its star at the same distance as the Earth is now from the sun about eight light-minutes, but then subsequently drifted away.
Scientists have identified around 250 planets orbiting stars other than our sun. Most are detected by indirect measurements such as tiny variations in the “wobble” of a star.
The team found that during its time as a middle-aged star, V 391 Pegasi had a mass similar to the sun before it expanded its radius by more than 100 times when it swelled into a red-giant – something the sun is expected to do in 5 billion years.
The researchers said the planet stayed intact because the parent star lost mass, reducing its gravitational pull just enough to let the planet drift away a bit.
Scientists claim that our very own star – the Sun is around 30 percent bigger already than when it first came into being. As it gradually exhausts all its hydrogen, the star’s dimensions will continue to swell.
Astronomers predict that the processes happening on V 391 Pegasi will be replicated by the Earth in 5 billion years time. The actual “earth” ironically may survive.
If you find this information useful and would like to get daily updates, feel free to subscribe to our RSS feed.