Around 80 light-years from Earth lies the white dwarf WD 1856, a dead star that entered the final stages of its life around 6 billion years ago. This slow death is typically quite lonely. In the process of dying, some stars will drastically expand, becoming a huge “red giant,”, and engulfing any of the planets orbiting close by. Eventually, they use up all their fuel and collapse back into white dwarfs, having destroyed everything in their wake.
Not so for WD 1856. For the first time, astronomers have detected a giant planet, about the size of Jupiter, orbiting the dead star. They’ve dubbed it WD 1856 b and it’s a surprising find — it avoided destruction and demonstrates dead stars could still host planets with the right conditions for life.