Sunday, April 18, 2010

An exciting new brown dwarf planetary system

The discovery of a planetary-mass system to a brown dwarf in Taurus has just been announced complete with a explanatory press release for the public. The new system reminds me of my favorite 2M1207AB system in TW Hya except this one is much younger -- just a million years old -- and somewhat closer (15AU) together. Like 1207A, the primary (2MASS J04414489+2301513) has a circumstellar disk and secondary is 5-10 times the mass of Jupiter. However, since this system is less than a million years old, it's clear that the "planet" must have formed from a collapse like a "star" or "brown dwarfs" rather than being slowly accumulated in a disk. Above is an artist's conception of the system. Here's the actual Hubble Space Telescope discovery image:

I talked to Kevin Luhman about the system and he was excited the possibility that this is actually a quadruple system. Not too far away (12.4 arcseconds) there's a pair of stars. Many brown dwarfs that are distant (>1000AU) companions to stars are doubles so perhaps this fits in. Here's a 2MASS survey image (in J band) of the field -- the brown dwarf is inside the magenta circle and the possibly related star is the brighter object to the upper left. They both look single because you need Hubble-quality resolution to tell they are binaries. The other star to the lower right is not related.

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