When a brown dwarf is actually a planetary mass object

Artist’s conception of SIMP0136 for short, which the research team determined is a planetary like member of a 200-million-year-old group of stars called Carina-Near.

Artist’s conception of SIMP0136 for short, which the research team determined is a planetary like member of a 200-million-year-old group of stars called Carina-Near.

Credit: NASA/JPL

In 5 seconds

An international team of astrophysicists that includes researchers at iREx has discovered that one of the brown dwarfs nearest to our Sun is actually a planetary-mass object.

Sometimes a brown dwarf is actually a planet—or planet-like anyway. A team led by Carnegie’s Jonathan Gagné, and including researchers from the Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx) at Université de Montréal, University of California San Diego and the American Museum of Natural History, discovered that what astronomers had previously thought was one of the closest brown dwarfs to our own Sun is in fact a planetary mass object. Their results are published by The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The team determined that a well-studied object known as SIMP J013656.5+093347, or SIMP0136 for short, is a planetary like member of a 200-million-year-old group of stars called Carina-Near. Gagné and the research team were able to demonstrate that at about 13 times the mass of Jupiter, SIMP0136 is right at the boundary that separates objects that are called brown dwarfs, which have a short-lived burning of deuterium right after they form, from those that are called planets, which don’t do fusion at any time.

Read the press release on the Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx) website