It is difficult to study the interiors of terrestrial planets in the Solar System and the problem is magnified for distant exoplanets. However, sometimes nature is helpful. Some planetary bodies are torn to fragments and consumed by the strong gravity close to the descendants of Sun-like stars, white dwarfs. We can deduce the general composition of the planet when we observe the spectroscopic signature of the white dwarf. Most planetary fragments that fall into white dwarfs appear to be rocky with a variable fraction of associated ice and carbon. These white dwarf planetary systems provide a unique opportunity to study the geology of exoplanetary systems.

You do not currently have access to this article.