Scientists have found an object hiding at the center of the Milky Way. The object called OGLE-2016-BLG-1190Lb is so massive researchers are not yet certain if this is a giant planet or a failed star.
Microlensing Event Found Mysterious Object
The potential exoplanet was found using data gathered by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope of a microlensing event observed in 2016.
Microlensing is a method that scientists use to discover planets. It involves a large object such as a star or a galaxy in the foreground that bends the light from an object in the background.
The phenomenon allows researchers to see the otherwise invisible object in the background, as well as any dark object, such as a planet, that passes across the bent light coming from the background object. Researchers spotted the planetary object lying at the center of the Milky Way galaxy using this method.
Planetary Object OGLE-2016-BLG-1190Lb
OGLE-2016-BLG-1190Lb has a mass of about 13.4 times that of Jupiter. It also orbits its parent star about every three years. The host star called OGLE-2016-BLG-1190L is a G dwarf with only less than a tenth of the sun's mass.
With more than 13 times the mass of the largest planet in the solar system, the planetary object is so big it is actually large enough to be a brown dwarf.
Brown dwarfs are also known as failed stars because they lack sufficient mass to sustain a nuclear reaction at their cores. The mass of a brown dwarf can range between 13 to 90 times the mass of Jupiter or about a tenth of the solar mass. They are nonetheless classified as stars because they produce light.
Giant Planet Or A Failed Star?
The boundary between a brown dwarf and a planet happens to be right at 13 Jupiter masses, which is why scientists cannot yet determine if OGLE-2016-BLG-1190Lb is a planet that formed out of the disk around its star or it is a failed star.
"Its existence raises the question of whether such objects are really 'planets' (formed within the disks of their hosts) or 'failed stars' (low mass objects formed by gas fragmentation)," study researcher Yoon-Hyun Ryu, from the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, and colleagues reported in their study. "This question may ultimately be addressed by comparing disk and bulge/bar planets, which is a goal of the Spitzer microlens program."
They added that the identity of the object may be unveiled with further investigation.