Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Nearby failed stars may harbor planet, astronomers find

Date:
December 16, 2013
Source:
Carnegie Institution
Summary:
Astronomers took precise measurements of the closest pair of failed stars to the Sun, which suggest that the system harbors a third, planetary-mass object.

Image of Luhman 16AB.
Credit: NASA / JPL / Gemini Observatory / AURA / NSF

Astronomers, including Carnegie's Yuri Beletsky, took precise measurements of the closest pair of failed stars to the Sun, which suggest that the system harbors a third, planetary-mass object.The research is published as a letter to the editor in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Failed stars are known as brown dwarfs and have a mass below 8% of the mass of the Sun -- not massive enough to burn hydrogen in their centers. This particular system, Luhman 16AB, was discovered earlier this year and is only 6.6 light-years away.

After the discovery announcement, several teams of astronomers, including the one with Beletsky, used a variety of telescopes to characterize the neighbouring couple.

After two-months of observations and extensive data analysis, Beletsky's team, led by Henri Boffin of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), found that both objects have a mass between 30 and 50 Jupiter masses. By comparison, the Sun has a mass of about 1,000 Jupiter masses.

"The two brown dwarfs are separated by about three times the distance between Earth and the Sun. Binary brown dwarf systems are gravitationally bound and orbit about each other. Because these two dwarfs have so little mass, they take about 20 years to complete one orbit," explained Beletsky.

The team used the FORS2 instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope at Paranal to image the brown dwarf couple in the best possible conditions, every 5 or 6 days over the period April 14, to June 22, 2013. Because of the instrument enabled the observers to make very precise measurements, the scientists were already able to detect tiny displacements of the two objects in their orbit during only this the two-month period.

The astronomers were able to measure the positions of the two brown dwarfs with ten times better accuracy than before and thereby detect even small perturbations of their orbit.

"We have been able to measure the positions of these two objects with a precision of a few milli-arcseconds," said Boffin. "That is like a person in Paris being able to measure the position of someone in New York with a precision of 10 centimetres."

The measurements were so fine that the astronomers were able to see some very small deviations from the expected motion of the two brown dwarfs around each other. The fact that the deviations appear correlated is a strong indication that a companion perturbs the motion of one of the two brown dwarfs. This companion is most likely a planetary-mass object, which has an orbital period between two months and a year.

"Further observations are required to confirm the existence of a planet," concludes Boffin. "But it may well turn out that the closest brown dwarf binary system to the Sun turns out to be a triple system!"


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Carnegie Institution. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. H.M.J. Boffin, D. Pourbaix, K. Muzic, V.D. Ivanov, R. Kurtev, Y. Beletsky, A. Mehner, J.P. Berger, J.H. Girard, D. Mawet. Possible astrometric discovery of a substellar companion to the closest binary brown dwarf system WISE J104915.57-531906.1. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 2013 [link]

Cite This Page:

Carnegie Institution. "Nearby failed stars may harbor planet, astronomers find." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131216142805.htm>.
Carnegie Institution. (2013, December 16). Nearby failed stars may harbor planet, astronomers find. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131216142805.htm
Carnegie Institution. "Nearby failed stars may harbor planet, astronomers find." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131216142805.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) — Argentina launches a home-built satellite, a first for Latin America. It will ride a French-made Ariane 5 rocket into orbit, and will provide cell phone, digital TV, Internet and data services to the lower half of South America. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

NASA (Oct. 17, 2014) — Power spacewalk, MAVEN’s “First Light”, Hubble finds extremely distant galaxy and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon Might Have A Hidden Ocean

Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon Might Have A Hidden Ocean

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) — The smallest of Saturn's main moons, Mimas, wobbles as it orbits. Research reveals it might be due to a global ocean underneath its icy surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Comet Set for Rare Close Shave With Mars

Comet Set for Rare Close Shave With Mars

AFP (Oct. 16, 2014) — A fast-moving comet is about to shave by Mars for a once-in-a-million-years encounter that a flurry of spacecraft around the Red Planet hope to capture and photograph, NASA said. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins