A Gaseous Metal Disk Around a White Dwarf

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Science  22 Dec 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5807, pp. 1908-1910
DOI: 10.1126/science.1135033

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The destiny of planetary systems through the late evolution of their host stars is very uncertain. We report a metal-rich gas disk around a moderately hot and young white dwarf. A dynamical model of the double-peaked emission lines constrains the outer disk radius to just 1.2 solar radii. The likely origin of the disk is a tidally disrupted asteroid, which has been destabilized from its initial orbit at a distance of more than 1000 solar radii by the interaction with a relatively massive planetesimal object or a planet. The white dwarf mass of 0.77 solar mass implies that planetary systems may form around high-mass stars.

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