Astronomers Discover a Gargantuan Planet Whizzing About a Brown Dwarf

first_imgLet us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Stay on target NASA Says 2 Asteroids Will Safely Fly By Earth This WeekendHubble Captures Saturn’s ‘Phonograph Record’ Ring System center_img According to Phys.org, Astronomers have made an interesting new discovery — a gas giant orbiting a brown dwarf. The exoplanet has been dubbed OGLE-2017-BLG-1522Lb. The newly discovered gaseous body has about 25% less mass than Jupiter, while its parent pseudo-star is about 46 times more massive than our own Jove.Exoplanets are already pretty tough to spot. Unlike stars, planets don’t naturally give off any light, which means that scientists have to get a little creative when looking for them. Often they use something called the “Transit Method” wherein they follow a star as it crosses in front of its parents light, and watch how and where the image dims to get a rough estimate of its properties.But this one was a bit different. Here, researchers used gravitational microlensing. Because gravity isn’t really a force, as Einstein demonstrated, but a curvature of space-time, in the same way a lens can be used to magnify an image, gravity can be used to accomplish the same. This technique requires solid understanding of the masses in the system being studied, but it’s extraordinarily effective and quite useful to spot a planet near a brown dwarf — which emit very little light naturally.OGLE-2017-BLG-1522 was observed in August of last year as part of the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE). The team used one of the telescopes at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, and, following the data collection, an international team of astronomers analyzed the data and found that the system likely had a brown dwarf and a gas giant.“We report the discovery of a giant planet in the OGLE-2017-BLG-1522 microlensing event. The planetary perturbations were clearly identified by high-cadence survey experiments despite the relatively short event timescale of tE ~ 7.5 days,” the researchers wrote.What matters here is that brown dwarfs aren’t generally thought to have the kind of nebulae that cause planet formation. There is a boundary, known as the “snow line,” past which planets tend to form. And while the astrophysics behind that gets a little complicated, these astronomers are fairly confident that their discovery is the first giant planet orbiting a brown dwarf with the right proportions. More observations will need to be made to confirm that the star is, indeed, brown, i.e. it doesn’t have enough mass to sustain hydrogen fusion in its core. If so, this could be a major new addition to our understanding of astrophysics and how planets form.last_img