Since the early 1900s, astrophysicists have been trying to determine what makes the universe tick from beginning to end. They have come up with a story about how collapsing clouds of gas and dust produce stars that burn nuclear fuel until it runs out. The process of stars dying out varies because of their mass, such as red dwarfs that cool down slowly while supernovae and red giants push their mass outward into space.
So it is assumed that planets could not be too close to these stars during its evolution but one of the more recent discoveries has called into question this particular assumption being made. Science Daily writes…
“University of Toulouse and University of Montreal researchers have detected two planets of sizes comparable to Earth orbiting around an old star that has just passed the red giant stage. This planetary system is located near Lyra and Cygnus constellations at a distance of 3900 light years.”
Theorists have their hands full with this falsified observation of a previous expectation. Various speculation on how this could have happened has created more problems than solutions. One of the speculations to come out is the planets are cores of gas giant planets which lost their gaseous envelopes. This suggests that planets can affect evolution of their parent star. Now if they are survivors of star evolution in its ending stage, then they would have endured conditions that astronomers believed would have vaporized any planet!
Another problem for theorists who believe in Stellar evolution models is migration…
“Alternative scenarios may also be considered. Another way to form single sdB stars is through the merger of two helium white dwarfs, and planet formation following this event may be possible. We could speculate that the collapse of the extended envelope resulting from this merger could produce a circumstellar disk, where second generation planets may form. However, it seems unlikely that new, sufficiently dense, planets could have formed within a rather short period of time (less than ~18 Myr) in an environment that close to this hot star.”
These alternative scenarios lack more observations in order for one to make a reasonable inference from rather than creating a story out of it, but it does sound better than the actual hard data itself.
Most astronomers use what they call; “state-of-the-art stellar evolution models to determine the ages.” Phys.org writes…
“New research by astrophysicists from the University of Rochester focused on stars in the north part of the constellation, known as Upper Scorpius, which is a part of the Scorpius-Centaurus OB association, one of our best studied groups of young stars and a benchmark sample for investigating the early lives of stars and the evolution of their planet-spawning disks. The Upper Scorpius stellar group lies roughly 470 light years from Earth.”
“While those stars have been thought to be just five million years old, the team concludes that those stars are actually more than twice as old, at 11 million years of age. The findings are surprising given Upper Scorpius’s status as one of the best-studied samples of young stars in the sky.”
One of the most best-studied stars is more than twice the age? Ok, a mistake happened with the models but this is not the first time nor the last that Stellar evolution models have been wrong. In fact, these models have been on a pace of more than 200 percent in revisions which calls into question the usefulness of these models.
Even though researchers from the University of Rochester believe their estimates concerning the stars age are based on better measurements of distance and mass, their ‘theory’ still drives the conclusions about how old the stars really are. There is a push for astronomers to reassess their assumptions about the ages of other clusters as well.
While it is difficult to go out into the unknown and be enormously successful with expectations and predictions, because surprises will happen as a result, but there is a difference between scientific exploration and explanation. Discovering phenomena holds amazing promise with future discoveries. It’s certainly part of science and non-confrontational. But one has to be beware of scientists who hype the discovery up (for like funding reasons or a belief), claiming he knows it all or on the verge of knowing exactly what the discovery entails.