Oldest white dwarf star catches amateur's eye – and its dusty ring leaves boffins baffled

www.theregister.co.uk | 2/19/2019 | Staff
Click For Photo: https://regmedia.co.uk/2019/02/20/oldest_white_dwarf_star.jpg

Pic An amateur astronomer has discovered the oldest-known white dwarf star, sitting 145 light years away from Earth in the Capricornus constellation.

Melina Thévenot volunteered to help NASA hunt for brown dwarfs by analysing grainy images of candidate stars taken by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WIDE) telescope as part of the The Backyard Worlds: Planet Nine project. This is a citizen science project launched two years ago which calls upon space enthusiasts to help find low mass stars nearby. It's hoped that the imaging may reveal the elusive "Planet Nine" thought by some to be hovering around the edges of our Solar System.

Planet - Nine - Thévenot - Gem - Blob

Instead of Planet Nine, however, Thévenot stumbled across another gem. She spotted a blob that was far too bright and far away to be a brown dwarf, so she alerted the team working on the project. A team of astronomers were called to make follow up observations using the Keck II telescope at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii.

They found a star, code named LSPM J0207+3331 or J0207 for short, shrouded in dust rings. The star is estimated to be three billion years old with a temperature of about 5,800 degrees Celsius, making it a white dwarf.

Dwarf - Process - Material - Rings - Timescales

"This white dwarf is so old that whatever process is feeding material into its rings must operate on billion-year timescales," said John Debes, co-author of the paper published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute, on Tuesday.

J0207 has left scientists puzzled as white dwarfs don’t normally keep their dust rings for...
(Excerpt) Read more at: www.theregister.co.uk
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