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A giant planet candidate transiting a white dwarf

Vanderburg, Andrew and Rappaport, Saul A. and Xu, Siyi and Crossfield, Ian J. M. and Becker, Juliette C. and Gary, Bruce and Murgas, Felipe and Blouin, Simon and Kaye, Thomas G. and Palle, Enric and Melis, Carl and Morris, Brett M. and Kreidberg, Laura and Gorjian, Varoujan and Morley, Caroline V. and Mann, Andrew W. and Parviainen, Hannu and Pearce, Logan A. and Newton, Elisabeth R. and Carrillo, Andreia and Zuckerman, Ben and Nelson, Lorne and Zeimann, Greg and Brown, Warren R. and Tronsgaard, René and Klein, Beth and Ricker, George R. and Vanderspek, Roland K. and Latham, David W. and Seager, Sara and Winn, Joshua N. and Jenkins, Jon M. and Adams, Fred C. and Benneke, Björn and Berardo, David A. and Buchhave, Lars A. and Caldwell, Douglas A. and Christiansen, Jessie L. and Collins, Karen A. and Colón, Knicole D. and Daylan, Tansu and Doty, John and Doyle, Alexandra E. and Dragomir, Diana and Dressing, Courtney and Dufour, Patrick and Fukui, Akihiko and Glidden, Ana and Guerrero, Natalia M. and Guo, Xueying and Heng, Kevin and Henriksen, Andreea I. and Huang, Chelsea X. and Kaltenegger, Lisa and Kane, Stephen R. and Lewis, John A. and Lissauer, Jack J. and Morales, Farisa and Narita, Norio and Pepper, Joshua and Rose, Mark E. and Smith, Jeffrey C. and Stassun, Keivan G. and Yu, Liang (2020) A giant planet candidate transiting a white dwarf. Nature, 585 (7825). pp. 363-367. ISSN 0028-0836. doi:10.1038/s41586-020-2713-y.

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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 1: Archival imaging of WD 1856) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 2: All transit observations of WD 1856) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 3: Spectral energy distribution of WD 1856. Photometric measurements from Pan-STARRS148, 2MASS149, WISE150 and Spitzer are shown as blue, orange, dark red and pink points, respectively) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 4: Spectrum of WD 1856 near the Hα line) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 6: Posterior probability distributions of transit parameters when eccentric orbits are allowed) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 7: Hα equivalent width for G 229-20 A/B compared to other nearby M dwarfs) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 8: Theoretical relationships between the star’s radius and the mass of its core) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 9: The minimum value of the efficiency parameter αλCE required for WD 1856 b to form via common-envelope evolution as a function of the progenitor stellar mass) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Table 1 Comparison of white dwarf parameters from different atmosphere models) - Supplemental Material
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Astronomers have discovered thousands of planets outside the Solar System, most of which orbit stars that will eventually evolve into red giants and then into white dwarfs. During the red giant phase, any close-orbiting planets will be engulfed by the star, but more distant planets can survive this phase and remain in orbit around the white dwarf. Some white dwarfs show evidence for rocky material floating in their atmospheres, in warm debris disks or orbiting very closely, which has been interpreted as the debris of rocky planets that were scattered inwards and tidally disrupted. Recently, the discovery of a gaseous debris disk with a composition similar to that of ice giant planets demonstrated that massive planets might also find their way into tight orbits around white dwarfs, but it is unclear whether these planets can survive the journey. So far, no intact planets have been detected in close orbits around white dwarfs. Here we report the observation of a giant planet candidate transiting the white dwarf WD 1856+534 (TIC 267574918) every 1.4 days. We observed and modelled the periodic dimming of the white dwarf caused by the planet candidate passing in front of the star in its orbit. The planet candidate is roughly the same size as Jupiter and is no more than 14 times as massive (with 95 per cent confidence). Other cases of white dwarfs with close brown dwarf or stellar companions are explained as the consequence of common-envelope evolution, wherein the original orbit is enveloped during the red giant phase and shrinks owing to friction. In this case, however, the long orbital period (compared with other white dwarfs with close brown dwarf or stellar companions) and low mass of the planet candidate make common-envelope evolution less likely. Instead, our findings for the WD 1856+534 system indicate that giant planets can be scattered into tight orbits without being tidally disrupted, motivating the search for smaller transiting planets around white dwarfs.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ReadCube access Paper ItemSpitzer Heritage Archive ItemMikulski Archive for Space Telescopes ItemCode
Vanderburg, Andrew0000-0001-7246-5438
Xu, Siyi0000-0002-8808-4282
Crossfield, Ian J. M.0000-0002-1835-1891
Becker, Juliette C.0000-0002-7733-4522
Blouin, Simon0000-0002-9632-1436
Kaye, Thomas G.0000-0001-7996-618X
Palle, Enric0000-0003-0987-1593
Melis, Carl0000-0001-9834-7579
Morris, Brett M.0000-0003-2528-3409
Kreidberg, Laura0000-0003-0514-1147
Morley, Caroline V.0000-0002-4404-0456
Mann, Andrew W.0000-0003-3654-1602
Parviainen, Hannu0000-0001-5519-1391
Pearce, Logan A.0000-0003-3904-7378
Newton, Elisabeth R.0000-0003-4150-841X
Zuckerman, Ben0000-0001-6809-3045
Nelson, Lorne0000-0002-6916-8130
Brown, Warren R.0000-0002-4462-2341
Tronsgaard, René0000-0003-1001-0707
Klein, Beth0000-0001-5854-675X
Ricker, George R.0000-0003-2058-6662
Vanderspek, Roland K.0000-0001-6763-6562
Latham, David W.0000-0001-9911-7388
Seager, Sara0000-0002-6892-6948
Winn, Joshua N.0000-0002-4265-047X
Jenkins, Jon M.0000-0002-4715-9460
Adams, Fred C.0000-0002-8167-1767
Benneke, Björn0000-0001-5578-1498
Berardo, David A.0000-0001-6298-412X
Buchhave, Lars A.0000-0003-1605-5666
Caldwell, Douglas A.0000-0003-1963-9616
Christiansen, Jessie L.0000-0002-8035-4778
Collins, Karen A.0000-0001-6588-9574
Colón, Knicole D.0000-0001-8020-7121
Daylan, Tansu0000-0002-6939-9211
Doty, John0000-0003-2996-8421
Doyle, Alexandra E.0000-0003-0053-3854
Dragomir, Diana0000-0003-2313-467X
Dressing, Courtney0000-0001-8189-0233
Fukui, Akihiko0000-0002-4909-5763
Glidden, Ana0000-0002-5322-2315
Guerrero, Natalia M.0000-0002-5169-9427
Heng, Kevin0000-0003-1907-5910
Henriksen, Andreea I.0000-0001-8817-6817
Huang, Chelsea X.0000-0003-0918-7484
Kaltenegger, Lisa0000-0002-0436-1802
Kane, Stephen R.0000-0002-7084-0529
Lewis, John A.0000-0001-5199-3522
Lissauer, Jack J.0000-0001-6513-1659
Morales, Farisa0000-0001-9414-3851
Narita, Norio0000-0001-8511-2981
Pepper, Joshua0000-0002-3827-8417
Rose, Mark E.0000-0003-4724-745X
Smith, Jeffrey C.0000-0002-6148-7903
Stassun, Keivan G.0000-0002-3481-9052
Yu, Liang0000-0003-1667-5427
Additional Information:© 2020 Nature Publishing Group. Received 16 March 2020; Accepted 15 July 2020; Published 16 September 2020. We thank S. Lepine for providing the archival spectrum of G 229-20 A, and P. Berlind and J. Irwin for collecting and extracting velocities from the TRES spectrum. We thank B.-O. Demory for comments on the manuscript, and F. Rasio, D. Veras, P. Gao, B. Kaiser, W. Torres, J. Irwin, J. J. Hermes, J. Eastman, A. Shporer and K. Hawkins for conversations. A.V.’s work was performed under contract with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech)/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) funded by NASA through the Sagan Fellowship Program executed by the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute. I.J.M.C. acknowledges support from the NSF through grant AST-1824644, and from NASA through Caltech/JPL grant RSA-1610091. T.D. acknowledges support from MIT’s Kavli Institute as a Kavli postdoctoral fellow. D.D. acknowledges support from NASA through Caltech/JPL grant RSA-1006130 and through the TESS Guest Investigator programme, grant 80NSSC19K1727. S.B. acknowledges support from the Laboratory Directed Research and Development programme of Los Alamos National Laboratory under project number 20190624PRD2. C.M. and B.Z. acknowledge support from NSF grants SPG-1826583 and SPG-1826550. A.V. was a NASA Sagan Fellow; J.C.B. is a 51 Pegasi b Fellow; L.A.P. is an NSF Graduate Research Fellow; A.C. is a Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Corporation Data Science Fellow; T.D. is a Kavli Fellow; and C.X.H. is a Juan Carlos Torres Fellow. Resources supporting this work were provided by the NASA High-End Computing (HEC) programme through the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) Division at Ames Research Center for the production of the SPOC data products. This work is partially based on observations made with the Nordic Optical Telescope, operated by the Nordic Optical Telescope Scientific Association at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos, La Palma, Spain, of the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias. This article is partly based on observations made with the MuSCAT2 instrument, developed by ABC, at Telescopio Carlos Sánchez operated on the island of Tenerife by the IAC in the Spanish Observatorio del Teide. This work is partly supported by JSPS KAKENHI, grant numbers JP17H04574, JP18H01265 and JP18H05439, and JST PRESTO grant number JPMJPR1775. This research has made use of NASA’s Astrophysics Data System, the NASA Exoplanet Archive, which is operated by the California Institute of Technology, under contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under the Exoplanet Exploration Program, and the SIMBAD database, operated at CDS, Strasbourg, France. This work is based in part on observations made with the Spitzer Space Telescope, which is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology under a contract with NASA. This work is partially based on observations obtained at the International Gemini Observatory, a program of NOIRLab, which is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation, on behalf of the Gemini Observatory partnership: the National Science Foundation (United States), National Research Council (Canada), Agencia Nacional de Investigación y Desarrollo (Chile), Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación (Argentina), Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia, Inovações e Comunicações (Brazil), and Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (Republic of Korea). The authors wish to recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that the summit of Maunakea has always had within the Indigenous Hawaiian community. We are most fortunate to have the opportunity to conduct observations from this mountain. Data availability: We provide all reduced light curves and spectra with the manuscript. The Spitzer images are available for download at the Spitzer Heritage Archive (, and the TESS images and light curves are available from the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes ( Source data are provided with this paper. Code availability: Much of the code used to produce these results is publicly available and linked throughout the paper. We wrote custom software to analyse the data collected in this project. Though this code was not written with distribution in mind, it is available online at Author Contributions: A.V. led the TESS proposals, identified the planet candidate, organized observations, performed the transit and flux limit analysis, and wrote the majority of the manuscript. S.A.R. helped to organize observations, performed independent data analysis, and wrote portions of the manuscript. S.X. helped to organize observations, obtained and analysed the Gemini data, measured fluxes from the Spitzer data, and helped to guide the strategy of the manuscript. I.J.M.C., L. Kreidberg, V.G., B.B., D.B., J.L.C., D.D., C.D., X.G., S.R.K., F. Morales and L.Y. acquired and produced a light curve from the Spitzer data. S.A.R., J.C.B., L.N., B.Z., F.C.A. and J.J.L. investigated the formation of the WD 1856 system. B.G., F. Murgas, T.G.K., E.P., H.P., A.F. and N.N. acquired follow-up photometry. S.B., P.D. and K.G.S. determined the parameters of the white dwarf, and A.W.M. and E.R.N. studied the M-dwarf companions. C.M., G.Z., W.R.B., R.T., B.K., L.A.B., A.E.D. and A.I.H. acquired spectra of the white dwarf and/or M-dwarf companions. B.M.M., K.H. and T.D. performed an independent analysis of the TESS data, and J.A.L. performed an independent analysis of the white dwarf SED. C.V.M. provided expertise on brown dwarf models, and L. Kaltenegger investigated the system’s implications. L.A.P. determined parameters for the binary M-dwarf orbits and white dwarf/M-dwarf orbits, A.C. investigated the system’s galactic kinematics. G.R.R., R.K.V., D.W.L., S.S., J.N.W., J.M.J., D.A.C., K.A.C., K.D.C., J.D., A.G., N.M.G., C.X.H., J.P., M.E.R. and J.C.S. are members of the TESS mission team. The authors declare no competing interests. Peer review information: Nature thanks Artie Hatzes, Steven Parsons and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Peer reviewer reports are available.
Group:Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)UNSPECIFIED
Los Alamos National Laboratory20190624PRD2
Heising-Simons Foundation51 Pegasi b Fellowship
NSF Graduate Research FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Large Synoptic Survey Telescope CorporationUNSPECIFIED
Kavli FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Juan Carlos Torres FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)JP17H04574
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)JP18H01265
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)JP18H05439
Japan Science and Technology AgencyJPMJPR1775
Subject Keywords:Exoplanets; Stellar evolution
Issue or Number:7825
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200922-140341642
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Vanderburg, A., Rappaport, S.A., Xu, S. et al. A giant planet candidate transiting a white dwarf. Nature 585, 363–367 (2020).
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:105477
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:22 Sep 2020 23:17
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 18:43

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