January 8, 2014
An object discovered by astrophysicists at the University of Toronto (U of T) nearly 500 light years away from the Sun may challenge traditional understandings about how planets and stars form.
The object is located near and likely orbiting a very young star about 440 light years away from the Sun, and is leading astrophysicists to believe that there is not an easy-to-define line between what is and is not a planet.
“We have very detailed measurements of this object spanning seven years, even a spectrum revealing its gravity, temperature, and molecular composition. Still, we can’t yet determine whether it is a planet or a failed star — what we call a ‘brown dwarf’. Depending on what measurement you consider, the answer could be either,” said Thayne Currie, a post-doctoral fellow in U of T’s Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics and lead author of a report on the discovery published this week in Astrophysical Journal Letters.