According to Phys.org, astronomers have made an interesting new discovery – a gas giant orbiting a brown dwarf. The exoplanet was named OGLE-2017-BLG-1522Lb. The newly discovered gaseous body has about 25% less mass than Jupiter, while its pseudo-star is about 46 times more massive than our own Jove.
Exoplanets are pretty hard to spot. Unlike stars, planets do not emit any natural light, which means that scientists need to get a little creative when searching for them. Often, they use something called the "transit method", following a star as they cross in front of their parent's light and observe how and where the image darkens to obtain a rough estimate of its characteristics.
But this one was a bit different. Here the researchers used gravitational microlenses. Because gravity is not really a force, as Einstein demonstrated, but a curvature of space-time, in the same way that a lens can be used to magnify an image, gravity can be used to do the same. This technique requires a solid understanding of the masses in the system under study, but it is extremely effective and quite useful for discovering a planet near a brown dwarf that naturally emits very little light.
"We report the discovery of a giant planet in the OLELE-2017-BLG-1522 microlens event, which clearly identified the planetary perturbations despite the relatively short event time of ~ 7.5 days by high cadence surveying experiments," the researchers said.
It matters that brown dwarfs generally do not have the kind of mists that causes planet formation. There is a boundary known as the "snow line" where planets tend to form. And while the astrophysics behind it gets a little complicated, these astronomers are pretty confident that their discovery is the first giant planet orbiting a brown dwarf with the right proportions. Further observations must be made to confirm that the star is indeed brown, i. H. He does not have enough mass to maintain the hydrogen fusion in his core. If so, this could be an important innovation for our understanding of astrophysics and the formation of planets.
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