Skip to comments.Astronomers discover possible miniature solar system
Posted on 11/29/2005 6:20:23 PM PST by NormsRevenge
LOS ANGELES Astronomers peering through ground- and space-based telescopes have discovered what they believe is the birth of the smallest known solar system. Scientists found a tiny brown dwarf or failed star less than one hundredth the mass of the sun surrounded by what appears to be a disk of dust and gas.
The brown dwarf located 500 light years away in the constellation Chamaeleon appears to be undergoing a planet-forming process that could one day yield a miniature solar system, said Kevin Luhman of Penn State University, who led the discovery.
It's long believed that our solar system came into existence when a huge cloud of gas and dust collapsed to form the sun and planets about 4.5 billion years ago.
The latest finding is intriguing because it's the smallest known brown dwarf to be discovered with planet-forming properties. If the disk forms planets, the resulting solar system will be about 100 times smaller than our system, scientists say.
The discovery was made using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and Hubble Space Telescope as well as ground observatories. Results will be published in the Dec. 10 issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Brown dwarfs, which are bigger than a planet but much smaller than a star, are thought to be balls of gas that failed to collect enough mass to start shining.
Bottled city of Kandor?
The that is very cute!!!!!!!
Appearances can be deceiving.
Great screen name.
So who's the little boy? Yours?
He looks like he's into sports and I love kids and their science projects.
The mobile is a definite keeper.
No, I don't have children. But when I saw "Miniature Solar System", I couldn't resist...
I just hate it when Superior Beings' kids leave their toys lying all over the place...
How about "Black Hole"?
I'm with you on that.
The eight year olds are so charming. Full of energy and imagination. The proud smile is classic.
Memo to Howard Dean (of the dimunitive stature and brain): your own little planet awaits your homecoming.
I thought brown dwarfs were burned out stars not stars beginning.
The 'Big Bang' on a smaller scale?
Okay...now, that right there? That was gross!
This artist's conception provided by NASA compares a hypothetical solar system centered around a tiny sun, top right, to a known solar system centered around a star about the same size as our sun, bottom right. Astronomers peering through ground and space-based telescopes have discovered what they believe is the birth of the smallest known solar system. Scientists found a tiny brown dwarf, or failed star, less than one-hundredth the mass of the sun surrounded by what appears to be a disk of dust and gas. (AP Photo/NASA, JPL-Caltech)
A Planet with Planets? Spitzer Finds Cosmic Oddball
Written by Whitney Clavin, Spitzer Science Center
November 29, 2005
Planets are everywhere these days. They have been spotted around more than 150 stars, and evidence is growing that they also circle "failed," or miniature, stars called brown dwarfs. Now, astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope say they have found what may be planets-in-the-making in the strangest of places -- around a brown dwarf that itself is the size of a planet.
The little brown dwarf, called Cha 110913-773444, is one of the smallest known. At eight times the mass of Jupiter, it is even smaller than several planets around other stars.
Yet, this tiny orb might eventually host a tiny solar system. Spitzer's infrared eyes found, swirling around it, a flat disk made up of dust that is thought to gradually clump together to form planets. Spitzer has previously uncovered similar planet-forming disks around other brown dwarfs, but Cha 110913-773444 is the true dwarf of the bunch.
"Our goal is to determine the smallest 'sun' with evidence for planet formation," said Dr. Kevin Luhman of Pennsylvania State University, University Park, lead author of a new paper describing the findings in the Dec. 10 issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters. "Here, we have a sun that is so small it is the size of a planet."
Brown dwarfs are born like stars, condensing out of thick clouds of gas and dust. But unlike stars, brown dwarfs do not grow large enough to trigger nuclear fusion. They remain relatively cool spheres of gas and dust.
Astronomers have become more confident in recent years that brown dwarfs share another trait in common with stars -- planets. The evidence is in the planet-forming disks. Such disks are well-documented around stars, but only recently have they been located in increasing numbers around brown dwarfs. So far, Spitzer has found dozens of disk-sporting brown dwarfs, five of which show the initial stages of the planet-building process. The dust in these five disks is beginning to stick together into what may be the "seeds" of planets.
Last year, Luhman and his colleagues used Spitzer to uncover what was then the smallest of brown dwarfs hugged by a disk. At only 15 times the mass of Jupiter, the brown dwarf, called OTS 44, is comparable to the most massive extrasolar planets.
Now, the team has again used Spitzer, this time to detect a disk around Cha 110913-773444, which has only about half the mass of OTS 44. The object itself was discovered by Spitzer with the help of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, the 4-meter Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, and the Gemini South Observatory, also in Chile. Its cool and dusty disk, however, could be seen by only Spitzer's infrared eyes. The teeny brown dwarf is young at 2 million years old, and lives 500 light-years away in the Chamaeleon constellation.
So, what makes this oddball a brown dwarf and not a planet? "There are two camps when it comes to defining planets versus brown dwarfs," said Dr. Giovanni Fazio, a co-author of the new paper from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "Some go by size and others go by how the object formed. For instance, this new object would be called a planet based on its size, but a brown dwarf based on how it formed. The question then becomes what do we call any little bodies that might be born from this disk -- planets or moons?"
If one were to call the object a planet, then it would seem Spitzer has discovered its first "moon-forming" disk. But, no matter what the final label may be, one thing is clear: the universe produces some strange solar systems very different from our own.
btw, ,, look what I just bumped into..
Like dust bunnies that lurk in corners and under beds, surprisingly complex loops and blobs of cosmic dust lie hidden in the giant elliptical galaxy NGC 1316. This image made from data obtained with the NASA Hubble Space Telescope reveals the dust lanes and star clusters of this giant galaxy that give evidence that it was formed from a past merger of two gas-rich galaxies.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
I think we should fire a photon torpedo at it (they could be future hostiles)
Beat me to it.
LOL..... thank you, I captured it and will use it as wallpaper for a while.
Finally we discover the home planets of the little people
of Irish and Scottish legend. Rainbows and Pots of Gold too maybe?