Thursday, 27 Sep, 2007 Science

Oldest Planet Discovered Suggests: Earth May Survive an Apocalypse


An international astronomers team has come up with new clues to solve the mystery about our solar system's future as it orbits a dying sun.

The team of 23 researchers used telescopes around the globe, having spent seven years in Naples studying the pulses of the V391 Pegasi star. Their collaboration has led to the discovery of a new planet, Peg V392b, the oldest planet so far discovered in the universe.

The astronomers working in different parts of the world have discovered over 200 planets outside our solar system, but the latest discovery can help the researchers draw conclusions about the state of our planet's future.

As the researchers explain, unlike our sun, the Peg V391 star has already passed the 'red giant' life period. At present moment it is shrinking, meaning it is becoming a 'white dwarf' and dying. Having discovered a planet associated with Peg V391, astronomers will be able to investigate how a dying sun effects its planet and then make conclusions about what will most probably happen to our planet when the sun enters the dying-stage in about 5 billion years.

The discovery allowed the researchers to believe that Earth, being at a distance from the sun, comparable to the distance of V391 Peg b from its sun, has chances to survive an apocalypse in 5 billion years, when our sun starts swelling into a red giant, having run out of hydrogen fuel. The scientists believe that V391 Peg b has successfully passed through the red giant phase of its sun, that is presently burning helium rather than hydrogen.

Besides the raw data received from the Middle East region, the team used the statistical analysis of the data set accumulated in Taiwan, Europe and North America, as an important part of the observational investigation. This way the astronomers try to demonstrate that an observed feature in nature, claimed to be a discovery of something new in the universe, is not just a random phenomenon of no importance.

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