A new discovery shows a planet that defies death

Credit image: W. M. Keck Observatory/Adam Makarenko
Credit image: W. M. Keck Observatory/Adam Makarenko

Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 18 July 2023, at 08:06 pm PDT

Prepare to have your mind blown by the awe-inspiring cosmic survival story of a planet named Halla. Against all odds, this planetary underdog managed to cheat death in a most spectacular fashion. Halla, the little rebel of the cosmos, orbits a red giant star called Baekdu at a distance only half that separates the Earth and the Sun. Now, you might think that such perilous proximity would spell certain doom for our plucky protagonist as Baekdu expanded. But hold on to your astronomical hats because Halla defied all expectations and emerged victorious in the face of celestial adversity.

Astronomers from the esteemed University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy, armed with powerful telescopes like the W. M. Keck Observatory and the Canada-France-Hawaiʻi Telescope, made this remarkable discovery. Through meticulous observations of Baekdu's stellar oscillations, courtesy of NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, this team of stargazing heroes led by the illustrious Marc Hon, a NASA Hubble Fellow at the Institute for Astronomy, uncovered the startling truth. They found that Baekdu had already undergone a tremendous expansion, becoming a red giant star once before.

Imagine the scenario: Baekdu, in all its stellar glory, inflating to a whopping 1.5 times the distance of Halla's orbit. It was poised to engulf our plucky planet in its fiery embrace. But then, in a plot twist that would make even the most seasoned astronomers gasp, Baekdu shrank back to its current size at a mere one-tenth of Halla's orbit. Halla survived the cosmic game of cat and mouse, defying the odds with its unwavering resilience.

Marc Hon, the brilliant mind leading this cosmic escapade, declared, "Planetary engulfment has catastrophic consequences for either the planet or the star itself—or both. The fact that Halla has managed to persist in the immediate vicinity of a giant star that would have otherwise engulfed it highlights the planet as an extraordinary survivor." Indeed, Halla's triumph is nothing short of extraordinary.

The discovery of Halla's tenacity marks a turning point in our understanding of planetary survival in the face of stellar evolution. It raises intriguing questions about the planet's origin and the mechanisms that enabled its improbable endurance. Halla's tale may hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of planetary formation around evolved stars and the role of binary interactions in creating habitable environments.

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