Recently, at a press conference at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society, Gongjie Li of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics predicted the death of two exoplanets. “As far as we know, this is the first time two known exoplanets in a single system have a predicted ‘time of death,’” she said. The two planets she’s talking about, Kepler-56b and Kepler-56c, are predicted to be swallowed by their star in 130 million and 155 million years, respectively.
This discovery offers a glimpse into the fate of our own solar system. It’s said that in about 5 billion years our Sun will puff up while turning into a red giant star, consuming the orbits of Mercury and Venus…and quite possibly, Earth. The star in the Kepler-56 system has already turned into a red giant star and ballooned out to 4 times its normal size. As it ages it will continue to grow. Its tides will also become larger, pulling in the surrounding planets.
Before the death of these two Kepler-56 planets they will suffer the effects of the growing star. The planets’ atmospheres will boil off and the planets will warp into something that looks more like a couple of eggs.
The only survivor in this system will be Kepler-56d, a gas giant that resides in a 3.3 Earth-year orbit.