Scientists have spotted a truly huge planet in the centre of our galaxy – in the ‘galactic bulge’ at the heart of the Milky Way.
The object is thought to be 13 times the size of Jupiter, and at the outside edge of what is classified as a planet.
It was spotted using ‘microlensing’, where scientists measure distortions in light when a star passes in front of another star, by the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE) collaboration.
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The planet, OGLE-2016-BLG-1190Lb is 22,000 light years away from Earth, and orbits its parent star roughly every three years.
Its huge mass puts the object right at the deuterium burning limit – the conventional boundary between planets and brown dwarfs.
The researchers say it is possible it is a brown dwarf.
Brown dwarfs are objects too big to be a planet – but which are not massive enough to sustain the nuclear fusion which makes stars burn.
The researchers write, ‘We report the discovery of OGLE-2016-BLG-1190Lb, which is likely to be the first Spitzer microlensing planet in the galactic bulge/bar, an assignation that can be confirmed by two epochs of high-resolution imaging of the combined source-lens baseline object.’