Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The Star, the Dwarf and the Planet

20.10.2006
First Directly Imaged Brown Dwarf Companion to an Exoplanet Host Star

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.

More information

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
Further information:
http://www.eso.org
http://www.astro.uni-jena.de
http://www.eso.org/outreach/press-rel/pr-2006/pr-39-06.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte
17.08.2018 | Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT)

nachricht Protecting the power grid: Advanced plasma switch for more efficient transmission
17.08.2018 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte

17.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Robots as Tools and Partners in Rehabilitation

17.08.2018 | Information Technology

Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves

17.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>