Alien Life Could be Detectable on Planets Around Dying Stars
By Amanda Doyle, Astrobiology Magazine | SPACE.com – 5 hrs ago
A white dwarf is a dead star that slowly cools down until it fades into oblivion. Yet it has been predicted that habitable planets can orbit a white dwarf. If we can somehow detect these planets, would we also be able to spot signs of life?
Scientists have created an artificial spectrum showing that the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be capable of detecting oxygen and water on an Earth-like planet orbiting a white dwarf.
A white dwarf is the end stage of evolution of a low mass star, and it is tiny compared to its former self. The habitable zone around a white dwarf would therefore have once been located deep within the region of space the star once inhabited, requiring planets to migrate inwards to experience temperatures that are just right for surface liquid water. Infrared observations also have revealed disks of dust surrounding some white dwarfs, which could be the birthplace of a new generation of planets.