Ancient Dead Star With Puzzling Rings Discovered By A Citizen Scientist

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A citizen scientists who usually works with NASA detected a strange, distant space object. More specifically he discovered an ancient dead star with some puzzling rings surrounding it.

The NASA citizen scientist, Melina Thevenot from Germany, spotted the bizarre dead star as she was examining the data gathered by the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite. She, at first, considered the object an anomaly but continued to analyze it more in-depth, and turned to some images captured by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). Feeling that she is onto something significant there, Melina sent her data to Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, also a citizen scientists project.

The Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 team repositioned the Keck II telescope in Hawaii to take a better look at the mysterious space object Melina Thevenot found. The telescope observation revealed that the strange object is, in reality, the ghost of an ancient dead star with some puzzling rings around it. The scientists found out that this star is also the older and coldest white dwarf ever found.

Citizen Scientist Spotted An Ancient Dead Star With Puzzling Rings

“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. “This star is really challenging our assumptions of how planetary systems evolve.”

“What makes this new white dwarf so interesting is that it’s much older than the typical dusty white dwarf. That is hard to explain with our current models of how asteroids get kicked into inner white dwarf systems, but somehow Nature knows how to do it,” added Debes.

This ancient dead star, now called J0207 (or LSPM J0207+3331), is no bigger than the Earth and lurks from 145 light-years from our world. Also, it is the first white dwarf ever discovered to pack two sets of rings around it.


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