Sunday, October 13, 2013

New Planet Discovered

Scientists have discovered a new planet.
Ho hum. This has become so common-place, it isn't typically reported anymore. What makes this one newsworthy? ... It doesn't bother to have a parent sun.
That's right, it's just wandering around in space, about 80 light-years from us, with no sun, and no other symptoms of a 'planetary system'. In early science fiction, such a planet might be called a 'rogue planet'.
Since this rogue is not orbiting a star, they didn't find it in the usual way, either. The usual way, these days, is to observe the changes in the star's brightness to determine when a planet's orbit places it between that star and Earth.
The way they discovered this planet was by looking for Brown Dwarf stars. Brown Dwarf stars, as I understand it, are 'larger than a planet, but not warm enough to have ignited into a star.' While searching for large, cool masses, they discovered this rogue, which was even colder than the brown dwarfs they were looking for.
At this point, they don't know much about it; only that it doesn't orbit a star, it's about 12 million years old, and it's about 6 times the mass of Jupiter.
I wonder if it could be considered a tiny brown dwarf? When I was (much) younger, I seem to remember wild speculation that Jupiter was just a little too small to have been a 2nd sun in this system, and in 2010 (as I remember the movie) aliens added enough mass to Jupiter to get it to ignite into another sun.

Well, for now, it's a planet. Of course, its status could change. Pluto was once a planet, too. After all, it's not as if astronomy is an exact science.

No comments:

Post a Comment