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Failed stars near Sun could harbor planet

Washington, Dec. 17 : Researchers have taken accurate measurements of the closest pair of failed stars to the Sun, which suggest that the system harbors a third, planetary-mass object.


Failed stars are known as brown dwarfs and have a mass below 8 percent of the mass of the Sun -- not massive enough to burn hydrogen in their centers.

This particular system, Luhman 16AB, was discovered earlier this year and is only 6.6 light-years away.

After two-months of observations and extensive data analysis, Carnegie's Yuri Beletsky's team, led by Henri Boffin of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), found that both objects have a mass between 30 and 50 Jupiter masses. By comparison, the Sun has a mass of about 1,000 Jupiter masses.

Beletsky said that the two brown dwarfs are separated by about three times the distance between the Earth and the Sun, asserting that the binary brown dwarf systems are gravitationally bound and orbit about each other. Because these two dwarfs have so little mass, they take about 20 years to complete one orbit.

The measurements were so fine that the astronomers were able to see some very small deviations from the expected motion of the two brown dwarfs around each other.

The fact that the deviations appear correlated is a strong indication that a companion perturbs the motion of one of the two brown dwarfs. This companion is most likely a planetary-mass object, which has an orbital period between two months and a year.

The research has been published in journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

--ANI (Posted on 17-12-2013)

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