Citizen Scientists Find Young-Jupiter-Like Object


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Citizen scientists have discovered a new object orbiting a Sun-like star that had been missed by previous research. The object is very far from its host star – over 1,600 times farther than Earth from the Sun – and it is believed to be a large planet or small brown dwarf, a type of object that is not massive enough to burn hydrogen like real stars. New World Details are published today in The Journal of Astrophysics.

“This star had been examined by more than one campaign in search of fellow exoplanets. But the previous teams seemed really close, really close to the star, ”said lead author Jackie Faherty, senior scientist in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History and co-founder of the Backyard Worlds citizen science project. : Planet 9, which led to the discovery of the object. “Because the Citizen Scientists really liked the project, they found an object that many of these direct imaging surveys would have liked to find, but they didn’t look far enough from its host. “

The Backyard Worlds project allows volunteers to travel nearly five years of digital images taken by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission to try and identify new worlds inside and out. of our solar system. If an object close to Earth is moving, it will appear to “jump” in the same part of the sky over the years as a “moving” object in a flip-book. Users can then flag these objects for further study by scientists.

In 2018, Backyard Worlds participant Jörg Schümann, who lives in Germany, alerted scientists to a new co-moving system: an object that seemed to move with a star. After confirming the movement of the system, the scientists used telescopes in California and Hawaii to observe the star and the object separately and were immediately excited by what they saw.

The new object is young and has a low mass, between 10 and 20 times the mass of Jupiter. This range straddles a large cutoff point – 13 times the mass of Jupiter – which is sometimes used to distinguish planets from brown dwarfs. But scientists still don’t know how heavy the planets can be, which can make it hard to trust this cutoff. “We don’t have a very good definition of the word ‘planet’,” Faherty said.

Another defining characteristic is the way they are formed: planets form from the collection of matter in discs around stars, while brown dwarfs are born from the collapse of giant clouds of gas, in the same way that stars are formed. But the physical properties of this new object do not provide any clue as to its formation. “There are hints that it may be more like an exoplanet, but there is nothing conclusive yet. However, that’s an outlier, ”Faherty said.

What surprised the team the most was the new object’s relationship to its host star. The object is farther from the star than expected based on its relatively low mass, more than 1,600 times farther than Earth from the Sun. Few objects with masses so different from their host star have been found so far apart.

Ultimately, this discovery could help scientists better understand how solar systems are formed, which is crucial for understanding the origins of life in the universe. “You had a community of exoplanets watching it so closely,” Faherty said. “And we just pulled back a little bit, and we found an object. It makes me excited about what we might be missing in the giant planets that might exist around these stars, ”Faherty said. “Sometimes you have to broaden your scope.”

Other authors of the study include Johanna M. Vos, Daniella C. Bardalez Gagliuffi, Austin Rothermich, and Andrew Ayala of the American Museum of Natural History; Jonathan Gagné from the University of Montreal; Mark Popinchalk of the American Museum of Natural History and the University of the City of New York; Adam J. Burgasser, Christian Aganze, Chih-Chun Hsu, Roman Gerasimov, and Christopher A. Theissen of the University of California, San Diego; Adam C. Schneider of the US Naval Observatory and George Mason University; J. Davy Kirkpatrick and Federico Marocco of the California Institute of Technology; Aaron M. Meisner of the NSF National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory; Marc J. Kuchner of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center; Dan Caselden of Gigamon Applied Threat Research; Eileen C. Gonzales of Cornell University; Sarah L. Casewell of the University of Leicester; John H. Debes of the Space Telescope Science Institute; William J. Cooper of the University of Hertfordshire and the National Institute of Astrophysics in Italy, and RL Smart of the National Institute of Astrophysics in Italy.

This research was funded in part by NASA Astrophysical Data Analysis Program grant NNH17AE75I and 80NSSC20K0452, as well as NASA grant 2017-ADAP17-0067, grant # 2007068, 2009136 and 2009177 of the National Science Foundation and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

– This press release was provided by the American Museum of Natural History

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