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Keywords:

  • binaries: close;
  • binaries: eclipsing;
  • stars: individual: QS Vir;
  • planetary systems;
  • white dwarf

ABSTRACT

Detections of Jupiter-like giant planets in orbit around short-period white dwarf binaries should provide insight into the formation and evolution of circumbinary planets (planets orbiting both components of short-period binaries), as well as into the ultimate fate of planets and the late evolutionary stage of binary stars (e.g. the evolution of the common envelope). However, to date no planets have been detected as companions to such close binaries. Here, we report the discovery of a giant planet orbiting the only known hibernating cataclysmic variable (CV), QS Vir, with a period of 7.86 yr. We analysed the variations of the orbital period of the eclipsing white dwarf–red dwarf binary, and a very small-amplitude cyclic change is found to be superimposed on a long-term period decrease. The period oscillation has the smallest amplitude among close binary stars and can be plausibly interpreted as the light-travel time effect via the presence of a third body. We found that the tertiary component is a giant planet with a mass of ∼6.4 MJupiter at a distance of ∼4.2 astronomical units (au) from the binary. The continuous decrease is explained as angular momentum loss via magnetic braking which is driving the evolution of the hibernating CV into a normal cataclysmic binary.