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Scientists Discover An Exoplanet So Massive They're Not Even Sure It's A Planet

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posted on Nov, 20 2012 @ 08:23 PM

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. RELATED ARTICLES Largest Known Exoplanet Discovered Astronomers Capture First Images of an Exoplanet Orbiting Its Star Freshly Discovered Earth-Like Planet Orbiting Nearby Star Could Be the First Truly Habitable Exoplanet TAGS Technology, Clay Dillow, exoplanets, kappa and b, kappa andromedae, Space, super-jupiterAll 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.

Very interesting, I wander if it is in fact a brown dwarf or an actual planet. All I know is that they keep finding more and more of these interesting things, at an ever faster rate.

Pretty soon we might even have actual proof of life on mars, If the "ground earth shattering news" proves to be actually earth shattering from the curiosity team.

My oh my, I love science and the universe, I cant wait to see the next big discovery.

Enjoy guys.

posted on Nov, 20 2012 @ 08:34 PM
It wouldn't surprise me if we started finding them bigger and bigger. It's infinite.
There could be a universe size planet out there.
We could be in a dust cloud on it.

posted on Nov, 20 2012 @ 08:39 PM
reply to post by TheLieWeLive

It would not really shock me very much, seems like they find somthing 'unknown" or thought impossible, about every other week these days.

I just hope they find somthing really really cool before I die, like an actual interstellar race, or a dyson sphere or somthing along those lines.

posted on Nov, 20 2012 @ 08:40 PM
reply to post by TheLieWeLive

A Planet has a Maximum Mass which it can obtain before it's core will ignite in spontaneous Fusion. Thus even the Largest Low Density Planet such as Saturn is...can only get so big as even being of low density if it is large enough and thus has enough Gas at a certain quantitative will become a Star.

Split Infinity

posted on Nov, 20 2012 @ 09:05 PM
I'm not surprised that they are not sure as to what to classify it as of yet:

Currently, the International Astronomical Union considers an object with a mass above the limiting mass for thermonuclear fusion of deuterium (currently calculated to be 13 Jupiter masses for objects of solar metallicity) to be a brown dwarf, whereas an object under that mass (and orbiting a star or stellar remnant) is considered a planet.

Distinguishing low mass brown dwarfs from high mass planets

posted on Nov, 20 2012 @ 09:15 PM

Originally posted by inverslyproportional

... its planet is about 13 times larger than Jupiter

Goddamnitsomuch - Can't they ever get it right?!

The MASS is 13 times that of Jupiter, not the SIZE. Think I'm nitpicking? A regulation softball and a womens shot put are the same size, but the shot put has 20 times greater mass. At last Olympic's Track & Field competition, I did not see women lobbing 2-meter balls out of a ring (I'm pretty sure I would have remembered that).

For another example, our moon and Pluto are about the same size, but Luna's gravity is 1/6th that of Earth, but Pluto's is ~1/20th! Mass matters. Mass tells us something about what's going on inside the object. Size is a minor side-effect. [/rant]

The planet in the article is roughly the same size as Jupiter.

posted on Nov, 20 2012 @ 10:53 PM
reply to post by Saint Exupery

You bring up a good point. A lot of people get confused with size and mass.

Here is another part from the wiki on brown dwarfs to help explain:

A remarkable property of brown dwarfs is that they are all roughly the same radius as Jupiter. At the high end of their mass range (60–90 Jupiter masses), the volume of a brown dwarf is governed primarily by electron-degeneracy pressure,[4] as it is in white dwarfs; at the low end of the range (10 Jupiter masses), their volume is governed primarily by Coulomb pressure, as it is in planets. The net result is that the radii of brown dwarfs vary by only 10–15% over the range of possible masses. This can make distinguishing them from planets difficult.

Another good example closer to home:

A volley ball is very close to being the same size as a bowling ball. Yet the mass of the bowling ball is a lot more than that of the volley ball (mainly because the volley ball is filled with air).

Here's another good example: Saturn.

Saturn's diameter is over 120,000 km, and Earth's is 12,600 km. So Saturn is HUGE in size compared to the earth.

Yet, if you could stand on Saturn, you'd only weigh about 95% of what you do on Earth. It's MASS is only 95% of Earth's! It's mean density is only 0.687 g/cm^3, so if you could find an ocean big enough, Saturn would float!

posted on Nov, 20 2012 @ 11:09 PM
reply to post by inverslyproportional

Scientists have so much to discover that is beyond their thought capacity, it's unreal. To even try and define it is unrealistic. The next several years will be so outside of the box it will blow even their minds!

posted on Nov, 20 2012 @ 11:16 PM
gawd, I am soooo relieved. If they can't figure it out, I wonder what they expect us to think. Seriously, if they don't know it's a planet then what do they know???

posted on Nov, 22 2012 @ 07:04 AM
reply to post by Gridrebel

It may be semantics.
People are still arguing about calling Pluto a "dwarf planet". So is it a planet or isn't it? If dwarf is an adjective, doesn't that still mean it's a planet, just a type of planet? And if it's not a planet, why are we still calling it a (insert adjective here) planet? Saying a dwarf planet isn't a planet is like saying a grizzly bear isn't a bear. I don't think we've heard the last of that.

And since the mass of the object in the OP is right on the fence between the two definitions, you could flip a coin I suppose. In the flipping a coin analogy, it's like asking is it heads or tails, when the coin lands on its edge.

posted on Nov, 22 2012 @ 07:13 AM
reply to post by Arbitrageur

It may be semantics.
People are still arguing about calling Pluto a "dwarf planet". So is it a planet or isn't it? If dwarf is an adjective, doesn't that still mean it's a planet, just a type of planet? And if it's not a planet, why are we still calling it a (insert adjective here) planet? Saying a dwarf planet isn't a planet is like saying a grizzly bear isn't a bear. I don't think we've heard the last of that.

Worse than that, its low mass suggests that, like other Kuyper Belt objects, it has retained a lot of its native volatiles. If it were to stray too close to the Sun, it would out-gas and form a tail. It's not a planet, it's a comet! I think I'll just consider anything past the orbit of Neptune to be an "unevolved planetesimal" and be done with it.

posted on Nov, 22 2012 @ 07:54 AM
reply to post by DJW001

There was mention of calling Pluto and objects similar to it "plutoids" but I'm not sure of the status of that and if it replaces "dwarf planet". But we apparently can't agree on the definition of a planet:


Researchers on both sides of the debate gathered on August 14–16, 2008, at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory for a conference that included back-to-back talks on the current IAU definition of a planet.[151] Entitled "The Great Planet Debate",[152] the conference published a post-conference press release indicating that scientists could not come to a consensus about the definition of a planet.[153] Just before the conference, on June 11, 2008, the IAU announced in a press release that the term "plutoid" would henceforth be used to describe Pluto and other objects similar to Pluto which have an orbital semimajor axis greater than that of Neptune and enough mass to be of near-spherical shape.

posted on Nov, 30 2012 @ 09:06 AM
reply to post by Gridrebel

I have to ask.... whats up with the starving child as an avatar? Its a very sad image... Can't imagine being that childs parent and being powerless to feed him..

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