White Dwarf Star Shreds Companion

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Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with NASA’s Universe of Learning partners: Caltech/IPAC, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Video imagery:

  • NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory image of white dwarf KPD 0005+5106: NASA/CXC/ASIAA/Y.-H. Chu, et al.
  • Illustration of white dwarf star and companion planet: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss

Writer: Leah Ramsay
Designer: Leah Hustak, Joseph Olmsted
Science review: Dr. Frank Summers
Education review: Jim Manning
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Objects and gases of various colors in outer space. Text, News from the Universe
December 1, 2021. White Dwarf Star Shreds Companion
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory investigated a white dwarf star with unusually bright, high-energy X-rays.
Chandra found the X-rays regularly increasing and decreasing in brightness every 4.7 hours.
The regular brightening indicates a companion is orbiting very close to the white dwarf. Models indicate a Jupiter-size planet.
The white dwarf's gravity is pulling material from the planet as they pass each other.
Material from the planet smashes into the white dwarf, creating the regular bright X-rays.
Models indicate the planet will only survive the process for a few hundred million years before it is destroyed.
This news was brought to you in part by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA