Gigantic planet spotted orbiting a brown dwarf

Astronomers have discovered a distant world that is significantly bigger than its host star.
By Joseph Scalise | Mar 28, 2018
Astronomers at KMTNet and the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE) have discovered anew Jupiter-like world orbiting a distant star that once again called into question the exact definition of a planet, according to a new study in the journalarXiv.

Brown dwarfs are typically either the lightest, dimmest stars in a system, or the heaviest, hottest planets. While they sometimes come with companion worlds, the relationship in the new study is the biggest difference between a brown dwarf and a companion planet on record.

That means the planet could have formed a ring of dust around the dwarf, rather than both objects coming together in a natural way. However, scientists are not yet sure.

"That's the fundamental question," study co-author Jennifer Yee, astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Gizmodo. "That's why it's important. We don't know how you would form these things."

The OGLE first found the celestial bodies on August 7, 2017, and then a series of telescopes across the world monitored the event.

This finding is important because, not only does it help shed new light on the universe, but it also brings up the idea of what makes a planet. While it is easier for smaller bodies, large objects are tricky to categorize because some are too big to be a planet, but also too small to be a star. Such debates are typically answered by knowing how a world forms, but such information is not known about the newly discovered body.

The team plans to continue their research in order to figure out any other strange mechanisms behind the distant pairing.

"By finding a bunch of these thing, we can relate them back to the whole course of their evolution," added Yee.

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