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Scientists said they discovered one of the first small fragments around a dead white dwarf star, which offers insight into the final years of a planet’s life.

SALT LAKE CITY — Researchers just discovered a dead planet that may shed light into Earth’s grim future.

Scientists said they discovered one of the first small fragments around a dead white dwarf star, which offers insight into the final years of a planet’s life, according to the study.

The floating fragment is likely a piece of a planet that was destroyed when the star died. When stars die, they become giants and engulf any nearby planets, according to Newsweek.

That's why the fragment could “even be a piece of the shattered planet's core," according to Space.com.

Surprise: Scientists were surprised that any piece of a planet could survive when it is so close to a white dwarf star, Live Science reports. It's possible a planet could be caught in a ring of debris, much like how objects persist in a ring around Saturn, according to Newsweek.

Why it matters: The planet and the dead star are in the Milky Way galaxy, according to USA Today, about 410 light-years away. According to Science magazine, the fate of the star and the planet offer a potential glimpse of Earth’s future.

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  • “It is thought that when the sun swells into a red giant, it will consume Mercury, Venus, and Earth. The other planets may move outward and survive, but those movements could cause gravitational jostling that ejects planets entirely or sends them spiraling inward to their doom. Not a pretty thought, but we do have about 6 billion years to contemplate our fate.”

What to expect: So, according to Newsweek, here's what you can prepare for:

  • "Our sun will start this process in around 5 billion years. When it happens, it will expand into the solar system, engulfing Mercury, Venus and probably Earth. Eventually, its core will collapse and it will become a white dwarf — an extremely dense, faint star about the size of a planet."