Thursday, January 31, 2008

New planet outside solar system discovered

A group of astronomers at the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela (USC) has discovered a huge planet in the star system Gliese 22, Spain's EFE news agency reported Wednesday. The finding has been reported in the Astronomy and Astrophysics magazine. According to Jose A. Docobo, director of the Ramon Maria Aller Astronomical Observatory at the university - the discovery of the extra-solar planet was made using for the first time a discipline called astrometry that studies the position and movement of stars and other bodies in the universe. Till the discovery in the Gliese 22 system, planets outside our own solar system have been discovered by measuring their stars' radial velocities or by observing the slight reduction in the stars' light that occurs when an orbiting star passes directly between it and us. The Gliese 22 star system is made up of three low-mass stars. Two of them form a binary system, in which both circle around a common centre of mass, while the third star - the most distant of the trio - circles around the other two. The existence of the enormous planet, which is calculated to have 16 times the mass of Jupiter - our solar system's largest planet, was detected around the third lone star. The astronomer team noticed that the third star moves from side to side a little as it orbits the binary system. Investigators said the oscillating motion could only be explained by the presence of another body - the large planet - circling it and pulling it slightly back and forth.


Olaf van Kooten said...

If the mass of this new sub-stellar object is indeed 16 times the mass of Jupiter, then it's NOT a planet, but a brown dwarf! Brown dwarfs have one thing in common with planets: they cannot fuse hydrogen. There is, however, one major difference between brown dwarfs and planets - brown dwarfs DO fuse deuterium, while planets have no kind of fuson at all.

Olaf van Kooten

Anonymous said...

By the way, the cut-off mass between planets and brown dwarfs is most often stated as 13 times Jupiters mass.

Pieter said...

@Olaf, Thank you for your explanation

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