Although mass is the most important property of stars, it has proved very hard to measure for the lowest mass objects in the universe. Thanks to a powerful new camera, a very rare, low-mass companion has finally been photographed.
The discovery suggests that, due to errors in the models, astronomers have overestimated the number of young "brown dwarfs" and "free floating" extrasolar planets. An international team of astronomers lead by University of Arizona Associate Professor Laird Close reports the discovery in todays (Jan 20.) issue of Nature.
The image has allowed the team to directly measure the mass of a young, very low mass object for the first time. The object, more than 100 times fainter than its close primary star, is 93 times as massive as Jupiter -- almost twice as heavy as theory predicts it should be. Their findings challenge current ideas about the astronomical brown dwarf population and the existence of widely publicized free-floating extrasolar planets.
Laird M. Close | EurekAlert!
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