Institute of Astronomy

Finding and characterizing habitable-zone planets around white dwarfs

SpeakerTalk DateTalk Series
Dan Maoz28 July 2014Across HR 2014 Posters


The growing evidence for rocky and water-rich debris around white dwarfs (WDs) strongly suggests that terrestrial planets may be common near their tidal disruption radii, which roughly coincide with their continuously habitable zones. Due to the small sizes of WDs, a planet transiting a WD will provide a very favourable contrast for characterising the planet atmosphere's transmission spectrum. JWST will be able to detect bio-markers in habitable-zone WD planets with several hours of total in-transit integration. This is probably the only circumstance with the potential for discovery of extra-solar bio-markers in the near term. I will describe ongoing efforts to discover the population of nearby, ~3-Gyr-old WDs, and to find those that are orbited by transiting habitable-zone planets, in time for their study by JWST, when launched in 2018.