September 6, 2011

Supernovae and Exoplanets: A Possible Connection?

Last week, I posted about a recent supernova in our sky called the SN 2011fe in the Big Dipper. The title of that post does not imply any connection at all between supernovae and exoplanets other than the fact that there's a couple of known planet-bearing stars which can be exogazed in the same patch of sky roughly 7 degrees in diameter.

In this post however, i'm going out on a limb to investigate a possible relationship between exoplanets and supernovae that is more direct than simply being in the same patch of sky. I'm hoping that this post would serve as a prompt and a question for astrophysicists because i'm really curious if what i'm thinking is true or not.

Today, I read from an article that some old stars (specifically White Dwarfs) may be held up by their rapid spins, and like ticking "time bombs"--the moment they slow down, they explode as supernovae. Immediately, I was reminded by an earlier finding that close-in exoplanets (commonly "Hot Jupiters") transfer angular momentum to their parent star which makes them spin faster.

Bringing these two research findings together, I therefore think that in some cases of these ticking "time-bombs" on the verge of collapse, the presence of a close-in planet can delay the parent star from going supernova. Can a planet ever affect a star in the context of a supernova?

However, the close-in exoplanet loses orbital energy and spirals inwards to its star. My wild imagination tells me that the hot jupiter will be consumed and all of its mass transferred to the parent star. Will the ill-fated exoplanet cause its star to become a supernova?
Maybe not. So let's avoid the mayhem and investigate first how to prevent a supernova with exoplanets, shall we?

Our Galaxy Might Hold Thousands of Ticking "Time Bombs"
Close-in Hot Jupiters Speed Up Rotation of Parent Star

Image Credits:
An artist's depiction of an early stage in the destruction of a "hot Jupiter" (a gas giant with a very close orbit) by its star. NASA/GSFC/Frank Reddy


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