Hubble Witnesses Massive Comet-Like Object Pollute Atmosphere of a White Dwarf

Stsci_2017-09_1024

stsci_2017-09 February 9th, 2017

Credit: Illustration Credit: NASA, ESA, and Z. Levy (STScI); Science Credit: NASA, ESA, and S. Xu (European Southern Observatory)

Astronomers have found the best evidence yet of the remains of a comet-like object scattered around a burned-out star. They used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to detect the debris, which has polluted the atmosphere of a compact star known as a white dwarf. The icy object, which has been ripped apart, is similar to Halley's Comet in chemical composition, but it is 100,000 times more massive and has a much higher amount of water. It is also rich in the elements essential for life, including nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, and sulfur. These findings are evidence for a belt of comet-like bodies similar to our solar system's Kuiper Belt orbiting the white dwarf. This is the first evidence of comet-like material polluting a white dwarf's atmosphere. The results also suggest the presence of unseen, surviving planets around the burned-out star.

Image Source: http://hubblesite.org/news_release/news/2017-09

Curator: STScI, Baltimore, MD, USA

Image Use Policy: http://hubblesite.org/copyright/

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Image Details

Image Type
Artwork
Object Name
WD 1425+540
Subject - Milky Way
Interplanetary Body > Comet

Distance

Universescale1
170 light years
Stsci_2017-09_1280
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ID
2017-09
Subject Category
B.2.2  
Subject Name
WD 1425+540
Credits
Illustration Credit: NASA, ESA, and Z. Levy (STScI); Science Credit: NASA, ESA, and S. Xu (European Southern Observatory)
Release Date
2017-02-09
Lightyears
170
Redshift
170
Reference Url
http://hubblesite.org/news_release/news/2017-09
Type
Artwork
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Facility
Instrument
Color Assignment
Band
Bandpass
Central Wavelength
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
Equinox
Reference Value
Reference Dimension
Reference Pixel
Scale
Rotation
Coordinate System Projection:
Quality
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
STScI
URL
http://hubblesite.org
Name
Space Telescope Science Institute Office of Public Outreach
Email
outreach@stsci.edu
Telephone
410-338-4444
Address
3700 San Martin Drive
City
Baltimore
State/Province
MD
Postal Code
21218
Country
USA
Rights
http://hubblesite.org/copyright/
Publisher
STScI
Publisher ID
stsci
Resource ID
STSCI-H-p1709a-f5100x3825.tif
Metadata Date
2018-04-11T15:33:58-04:00
Metadata Version
1.2
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Universescalefull
170 light years