Astronomers have detected a new faint companion to the star HD 3651, already known to host a planet. This companion, a brown dwarf, is the faintest known companion of an exoplanet host star imaged directly and one of the faintest T dwarfs detected in the Solar neighbourhood so far. The detection yields important information on the conditions under which planets form.
"Such a system is an interesting example that might prove that planet and brown dwarf can form around the same star", said Markus Mugrauer, lead author of the paper presenting the discovery.
HD 3651 is a star slightly less massive than the Sun, located 36 light-years away in the constellation Pisces (the "Fish"). For several years, it has been known to harbour a planet less massive than Saturn, sitting closer to its parent star than Mercury is from the Sun: the planet accomplishes a full orbit in 62 days.
Mugrauer and his colleagues first spotted the faint companion in 2003 on images from the 3.8-m United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) in Hawaii. Observations in 2004 and 2006 using ESO's 3.6 m New Technology Telescope (NTT) at La Silla provided the crucial confirmation that the speck of light is not a spurious background star, but indeed a true companion. The newly found companion, HD 3651B, is 16 times further away from HD 3651 than Neptune is from the Sun.
HD 3651B is the dimmest directly imaged companion of an exoplanet host star. Furthermore, as it is not detected on the photographic plates of the Palomar All Sky Survey, the companion must be even fainter in the visible spectral range than in the infrared, meaning it is a very cool low-mass sub-stellar object. Comparing its characteristics with theoretical models, the astronomers infer that the object has a mass between 20 and 60 Jupiter masses, and a temperature between 500 and 600 degrees Celsius. It is thus ten times colder and 300 000 less luminous than the Sun. These properties place it in the category of cool T-type brown dwarfs.
"Due to their faintness even in the infrared, these cool T dwarfs are very difficult to find", said Mugrauer. "Only two other brown dwarfs with similar brightness are presently known. Their study will provide important insights into the atmospheric properties of cool sub-stellar objects."
More than 170 stars are currently known to host exoplanets. In some cases, these stars were also found to have one or several stellar companions, showing that planet formation can also take place in a dynamically more complex environment than our own Solar System where planet formation occurred around an isolated single star.
In 2001, Mugrauer and his colleagues started an observational programme to find out whether exoplanet host stars are single or married. In this programme, known exoplanet host stars are systematically imaged at two different epochs, at least several months apart. True companions can be distinguished from coincidental background objects as only they move together with the stars over time. With this effective search strategy several new companions of exoplanet host stars have been detected. Most of the detected companions are low-mass stars in the same evolutionary state as the Sun. In two cases, however, the astronomers found the companions to be white dwarfs, that is, stars at the end of their life. These intriguing systems bear evidence that planets can even survive the troubled last moments in the life of a nearby star.
The planet host star HD 3651 is thus surrounded by two sub-stellar objects. The planet, HD 3651b, is very close, while the newly found brown dwarf companion revolves around the star 1500 times farther away than the planet. This system is the first imaged example that planets and brown dwarfs can form around the same star.
These results were first presented in August at the IAU General Assembly in Prague and are in press in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (Mugrauer et al., astro-ph/0608484). The discovery was later confirmed by another team, using the Spitzer space telescope (Luhman et al., astro-ph/0609464). The spectral classification was confirmed by additional follow-up spectroscopy of the companion (Burgasser, astro-ph/0609556).
The team comprises Markus Mugrauer and Ralph Neuhäuser (Astrophysical Institute and University observatory of the Friedrich-Schiller University of Jena, Germany), Andreas Seifahrt (ESO), and Tsevi Mazeh (Tel Aviv University, Israel).
Henri Boffin | alfa
Astrophysicists explain the mysterious behavior of cosmic rays
18.08.2017 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology
Mars 2020 mission to use smart methods to seek signs of past life
17.08.2017 | Goldschmidt Conference
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Information Technology