Astronomers, including Carnegie’s Yuri Beletsky, took precise measurements of the closest pair of failed stars to the Sun, which suggest that the system harbors a third, planetary-mass object.The research is published as a letter to the editor in Astronomy & Astrophysics available online.
Failed stars are known as brown dwarfs and have a mass below 8% of the mass of the Sun—not massive enough to burn hydrogen in their centers. This particular system, Luhman 16AB, was discovered earlier this year and is only 6.6 light-years away.
After the discovery announcement, several teams of astronomers, including the one with Beletsky, used a variety of telescopes to characterize the neighbouring couple.
After two-months of observations and extensive data analysis, Beletsky’s team, led by Henri Boffin of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), found that both objects have a mass between 30 and 50 Jupiter masses. By comparison, the Sun has a mass of about 1,000 Jupiter masses.