Massive 'planet' might actually be a star

Astronomers have discovered a massive planet at the center of our galaxy that is so big they are not sure if it is a planet at all.
By David Sims | Nov 13, 2017
A group of international astronomers have spotted a planet at the center of our galaxy that is so big they believe it might not be a planet at all.

Scientists first discovered the strange object, known asknown as OGLE-2016-BLG-1190Lb, while looking at data gathered by NASA's Spitzer infra-red space telescope. They then used a technique known as micro-lensing -- which measures the distortions in light that occur when stars pass in front of each other -- to show that the object sits roughly 22,000 light years away from Earth and orbits its host star roughly once every three years.

"We report the discovery of OGLE-2016-BLG-1190Lb, which is likely to be the first Spitzer micro-lensing planet in the Galactic bulge/bar, an assignation that can be confirmed by two epochs of high-resolution imaging of the combined source-lens baseline object," wrote the study authors, according toFox News.

The body is 13 times the size of Jupiter, which makes it one of the largest space objects ever discovered.

In fact, the object is so big that scientists are not sure if it is a gigantic planet or a failed star. The mass puts it at the deuterium burning limit, which is the boundary between planets and brown dwarfs. However, as it sits right on that line, there is not yet enough information to tell one way or the other.

This data is the most comprehensive research on any planetary body found using microlensing. Even so, the data is not enough to establish the precise full orbit of the planet. Astronomers plan to further study OGLE-2016-BLG-1190Lb to see if they can determine exactly what it is.

"Since the existence of the brown dwarf desert is the signature of different formation mechanisms for stars and planets, the extremely close proximity of OGLE-2016-BLG-1190Lb to this desert raises the question of whether it is truly a 'planet' (by formation mechanism) and therefore reacts back upon its role tracing the galactic distribution of planets," the researchers wrote in their study, according toYahoo News.

The research has been submitted to the Astronomical Journal for publication.


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