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The Dog Star Ate My Exoplanet

white dwarf.jpg

We've teased Darwinists for their faith that somewhere out there the universe teams with habitable Earth-like exoplanets. Since life isn't special, including intelligent life, it must be very common. Common, but quiet. Hence the failure of SETI to pick up any evidence of communication from the countless alien civilizations that must currently be out there.

Along comes a cheering and convenient face-safer for Darwin defenders: Maybe those Earth-like exoplanets were out there but got eaten. Astrophysicists at the University of Warwick have the information, courtesy of the Hubble Space Telescope: evidence of "four white dwarfs surrounded by dust from shattered planetary bodies which once bore striking similarities to the composition of the Earth."

Our own sun is a yellow dwarf and in popular science media it's typically held to be red dwarf systems that play host to the lion's share of potentially populated Earth-like worlds, whose numbers keeps going up by the month. Currently the talk is of tens of billions of exoplanets -- the talk being, of course, exclusively on our end. The other inhabited planets are suspiciously silent.

A white dwarf is the end stage of life for most stars, preceded by the red giant phase where, in cases like these, the star expands and gobbles up any nearby orbiting bodies, leaving only debris or at best a scorched rock in its wake:

Using the Hubble Space Telescope for the biggest survey to date of the chemical composition of the atmospheres of white dwarf stars, the researchers found that the most frequently occurring elements in the dust around these four white dwarfs were oxygen, magnesium, iron and silicon -- the four elements that make up roughly 93 per cent of the Earth.

However an even more significant observation was that this material also contained an extremely low proportion of carbon, which matched very closely that of the Earth and the other rocky planets orbiting closest to our own Sun.

This is the first time that such low proportions of carbon have been measured in the atmospheres of white dwarf stars polluted by debris. Not only is this clear evidence that these stars once had at least one rocky exoplanet which they have now destroyed, the observations must also pinpoint the last phase of the death of these worlds.

It's assumed that this is the ultimate fate of our Sun and of the Earth itself. Another cheerful thought. The research will appear in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Image credit: Mark A. Garlick.