Monday, October 13, 2008

Perplexing planet-ish thing has experts scratching their heads

The European Space Agency's exoplanet-hunting satellite COROT has discovered a bizarre object that could be a brown dwarf (failed star) or it could be a planet, but it's not close enough to either to fit into any of the categories we use to classify stuff in our universe, according to an ESA press release.

[Pound360 originally came across
this story at Slashdot, which led to a post at Nature's "The Great Beyond" blog, that eventually led to the ESA press release that our post is based on.]

The object, called "COROT-exo-3b", is the size of Jupiter, but it's 20-times the mass. That makes it twice as dense as lead and the densest planet-like object yet. It's circling close to it's parent star and moving pretty fast, too. An orbit takes just four days and six hours.

Pound360 thinks this is pretty amazing. It seems that, the deeper we look into space, the more diverse the universe becomes. Imagine how boring it would be if everything we found were Jupiter-like, asteroid-like or star-like. Finding stuff in between means there's a lot of incredible discoveries to make.

(Image courtesy ESA)

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.