You know we've found something new and interesting when scientists don't really know how to classify it. Using the Subaru Telescope an international team of astronomers has discovered a "super-Jupiter" so massive that it seems they're not quite sure whether to call it a planet or a low-mass brown dwarf (in other words, a star that failed to fire). Located roughly 170 light-years from Earth, the host star is roughly 2.5 times more massive than the sun and its planet is about 13 times larger than Jupiter, making this the highest-mass star to ever host a directly imaged orbital companion--especially one of this size.
Kappa Andromedae is part of what's known as the Columba stellar moving group, and at just 30 million years old it is relatively young (our Sun is estimated to be more like five billion hears old). That's significant if only for the mode of discovery--young stars are good targets for directly imaging exoplanets because their planets (also young) tend to retain more heat leftover from the formation process and thus reveal themselves more readily via infrared emissions. That's how the researchers were able to zero in on Kappa And b, the super-Jupiter orbiting Kappa Andromedae at a distance about 1.8 times Neptune's distance from the Sun, over the glare of its host star.
All of this is scientifically significant because according to the way we understand both star formation and planetary formation there are parameters that determine whether objects of certain masses can do certain things, and both Kappa Andromedae and its orbiting super-object sit at interesting places within these parameters. In theory, Kappa And b probably falls just shy of being massive enough to trigger internal fusion--it is right on the brink of potentially becoming a star (hence the speculation that it might be better classified as a brown dwarf).
And as for Kappa Andromedae, its 2.5 solar masses demonstrate that stars its size are capable of producing these huge orbiting bodies--super-planets relative to those found in our solar system--in their planetary discs. That's something that some theorists thought impossible due to the massive amount of radiation these stars put off (the idea is that this radiation would interfere with the normal planet formation process that takes place around smaller stars like the Sun).
So the strange case of Kappa Andromedae and super-Jupiter Kappa And b gives astronomers some things to think about. The team that discovered it plans to keep the Subaru Telescope trained on it for awhile to better defines the planet's chemistry and orbital characteristics, which will further their understanding of exactly what is going on over there.
I wonder if they are implying that a planet can potentially morph into a star if it is big enough. If it is just a brown dwarf that is in a binary system, that is not too surprising. Both stars could have been birthed at the same time. However, if a planet began to form around the large star and eventually became large enough to start the fusion process and technically qualify as a star, that would be something more interesting.
With absolutely no evidence of any kind, I believe a planet's potential end(in terms of energy) is to become a star. This planet seems to have met its crossover phase.
Looks like the eye of sauron.
I know what to call it!
A "Space Ball"
Star Trek had it right all along. They explored interesting things on every episode that even their advanced science had not previously discovered.
How did Gene Roddenberry know there would be so many new and strange things to explore when our current science was saying there was not much else out there?
The only thing Star Trek got wrong is why would so many people be dumb enough to use a transporter?
It was obvious the first time I saw it that the person was scanned and disintegrated and then a copy was made on the other end.
Transporters kill you!
"our Sun is estimated to be more like five billion hears old"
~five billion hears old..
How fast does sound travel in space??
I'm curious about the moons circling this beast. There are undoubtedly several moons there...
Name it after Popular Science.
Sorry, PS1 PS2 and PS3 are taken.
A super Jupiter. Hmmm. Doesn't say whether we are going to put Spitzer and the rest of that group of telescopes on it. No reference to it's gamma emissions. So, off to the Subaru site.