ANALYSIS: IAU: No, You Can't Name That Exoplanet
"We expect to find planets in stable orbits around white dwarfs. The tricky part is to find them in the habitable zone. Because the stars are so much smaller, the habitable zone is going to be very close in," said astronomer Carolyn Brinkworth with the California Institute of Technology.
One way a planet might find itself in a white dwarf's habitable zone is if it were gravitationally kicked inward by a larger planet farther away.
"Obviously, you don't rule anything out, but I think it would take a very, very well-placed kick and luck to get something into a habitable zone. I think your chances of that are fairly slim," Brinkworth told Discovery News.
Nevertheless, Loeb argues it's worth a look.
"We know from the history of astronomy that whenever people tried to guess what the sky is like, they were very often wrong," Loeb said.
Much of the groundwork for scanning suitable white dwarf stars can be done with small telescopes that exist today. Then, after NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is in orbit, follow-up observations of prime candidates can be done in just five hours, computer models show.