Studies1,2 have shown that the remnants of destroyed planets and debris-disk planetesimals can survive the volatile evolution of their host stars into white dwarfs3,4, but few intact planetary bodies around white dwarfs have been detected5,6,7,8. Simulations predict9,10,11 that planets in Jupiter-like orbits around stars of ≲8 M☉ (solar mass) avoid being destroyed by the strong tidal forces of their stellar host, but as yet, there has been no observational confirmation of such a survivor. Here we report the non-detection of a main-sequence lens star in the microlensing event MOA-2010-BLG-477Lb12 using near-infrared observations from the Keck Observatory. We determine that this system contains a 0.53 ± 0.11 M☉ white-dwarf host orbited by a 1.4 ± 0.3 Jupiter-mass planet with a separation on the plane of the sky of 2.8 ± 0.5 astronomical units, which implies a semi-major axis larger than this. This system is evidence that planets around white dwarfs can survive the giant and asymptotic giant phases of their host’s evolution, and supports the prediction that more than half of white dwarfs have Jovian planetary companions13. Located at approximately 2.0 kiloparsecs towards the centre of our Galaxy, it is likely to represent an analogue to the end stages of the Sun and Jupiter in our own Solar System.
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The Keck Observatory data used in this study are freely available in the Keck Observatory Archive (https://koa.ipac.caltech.edu/cgi-bin/KOA/nph-KOAlogin). Data from the VISTA Variables in the Via Lactea (VVV) survey are available in the European Southern Observatory archive (http://archive.eso.org/wdb/wdb/adp/phase3_main/form?phase3_collection=VVV&release_tag=6). Data used to model the light curve are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.
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Data presented in this work were obtained at the W. M. Keck Observatory from telescope time allocated to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration through the agency’s scientific partnership with the California Institute of Technology and the University of California. This work was supported by the University of Tasmania through the UTAS Foundation, ARC grant DP200101909, and the endowed Warren Chair in Astronomy. We acknowledge the support of ANR COLD WORLDS (ANR-18-CE31-0002) at the Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris and the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux. D.P.B., A.B., N.K., C.R. and S.K.T. were supported by NASA through grant NASA-80NSSC18K0274 and by NASA award no. 80GSFC17M0002. E.B. acknowledges support from NASA grant 80NSSC19K0291. Work by N.K. is supported by JSPS KAKENHI grant no. JP18J00897. C.D. acknowledges financial support from the State Agency for Research of the Spanish MCIU through the ‘Center of Excellence Severo Ochoa’ award to the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (SEV-2017-0709), and the Group project ref. PID2019-110689RB-I00/AEI/10.13039/501100011033. D.V. gratefully acknowledges the support of the STFC via an Ernest Rutherford Fellowship (grant ST/P003850/1).
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature thanks Albert Zijlstra and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Peer reviewer reports are available.
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Extended data figures and tables
(a) OGLE-III image of the OGLE-BLG176.8 field (b) H-band image of the same field taken in 2015 with Keck/NIRC2 with the narrow camera.
(a) Keck/NIRC2 H-band image from 2018. (b) Residuals after fitting the PSF using multiple stars in the neighbourhood of the source. Both the object to the north-east (upper left in panel A) and the object at source position (lower right) are subtracted using this PSF fit. There is no structure or indication of a double star in either of the two objects. (c) The residuals from panel B normalized to the Poisson noise. (d) Panel A but subtracting the fitted PSF from the unrelated companion.
Extended Data Fig. 3 White Dwarf Mass-Luminosity distribution derived a sample of 130 white dwarfs from a homogeneous and complete sample of white dwarfs within 20pc of the Sun18.
Two unresolved double-white dwarfs (DWD), eight unresolved DWD candidates and one unresolved binary white dwarf with a main-sequence companion have been removed from this sample19. 14 stars with distances > 20 pc have also been removed. The white dots indicate the masses and V band magnitudes of the white dwarfs in this sample, and the color distribution indicates the smooth Gaussian multivariate kernel-density distribution that we have used in our analysis.
The solid curve is the best fit model and the dashed grey curve is the single lens model with the same single lens parameters. The different colors represent different data sets from different telescopes. One sigma error bars are shown. The data sets are explained in the discovery paper12.
Extended Data Fig. 5 Cumulative Δχ2 comparing a static light curve model with that including parallax and orbital motion.
The bulk of the signal comes following the light curve peak. The parallax plus orbital motion comes primarily from the MOA data (Δχ2 = 45) and the SAAO data (Δχ2 = 9.0).
Extended Data Fig. 6 Predictions of the microlens parallax vector πE and the corresponding predicted relative lens-source proper motion μrel for a main sequence and white dwarf lens.
Based on a Markov-Chain Monte-Carlo (MCMC) analysis using Galactic model priors as in17, the upper panels (a) and (b) show the unweighted predicted components of (πEN, πEE) and (μrel, HN, μrel, HE). The middle panels (c) and (d) show the weighted predictions for a main-sequence lens. The lower panels (e) and (f) show the weighted predictions for a white-dwarf lens. The three shades of blue from dark to light denote probabilities of of 0.393, 0.865, 0.989. When integrating over all parameters the limit of the 0.393 contour corresponds to the 1σ distribution of any chosen parameter.
H-band adaptive optics imaging from the KECK observatory, with contours showing the predicted position of a white dwarf lens (analogous to Fig. 1) (a) A crop of a narrow-camera H-band image obtained with the NIRC2 imager in 2015 centered on MOA 2010-BLG-477 with an 8 arcsec field of view. (b) A 0.36 arcsec zoom of the same image. The bright object in the center is the source. To the north-east (the upper left) is an unrelated H = 18.52 ± 0.05 star 123 mas from the source. (c) The field in 2018. The contours indicate the likely positions of the white dwarf host (probability of 0.393, 0.865, 0.989 from light to dark blue) using constraints from microlensing parallax and lens-source relative proper motion.
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Blackman, J.W., Beaulieu, J.P., Bennett, D.P. et al. A Jovian analogue orbiting a white dwarf star. Nature 598, 272–275 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03869-6