This week, José Antonio López Guerrero is dedicating his RNE program, “Entre Probetas”, to the death foretold of a planet: Kepler-91b.
We know without a doubt that the days of our planet —just like all others— are numbered. However, let us all hope, that neither you nor your great-great-great-great grandchildren will live to see the death of our Global Village. But some other planets already appear to be on death row, which is the best way of describing their situation!
For the first time, a planet orbiting a red giant star has been detected that is in the final stage of its life: a death that will take place in the next 50-60 million years — the day after tomorrow on an astrological scale. Researchers from various bodies led by Jorge Lillo-Box and David Barrado from the Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA) are studying the system formed by a red giant and its planet (Kepler-91b), whose orbit is extremely close to that of the star. The outer layers of the star —which is known as KOI-2133– are currently expanding, and this will eventually devour the planet.
For four years, the Kepler space telescope has been gathering data on a multitude of stars that might have planets. The red giant KOI-2133 is one of these candidates, and the researchers have precisely measured its physical properties, such as its mass, radius and age. This minute analysis of the data has revealed tiny changes in the curve of the light emitted, both in terms of small periodic decreases and modulation of intensity, confirming the presence of Kepler-91b.
Having studied the planet in detail —with German participation— Kepler-91b’s atmosphere seems to be inflated, probably due to intense radiation from the star, as the planet is so close to the star that its orbit only takes 6.24 days. This makes it the closest known-planet to a red giant, meaning it is also the first candidate to be swallowed by its star. Kepler-91b’s star is a bad one. Pull up a seat…
If you want to listen to the original content (in Spanish only), You can enjoy it here.
José Antonio López Guerrero
Microbiology Professor at UAM (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid). Researcher and Director of the Scientific Culture Department of the Severo Ochoa Molecular Biology Center