Mysterious ‘rogue planet’ floating through space may be even stranger than we thought

Rob Waugh

A rogue planet spotted wandering through space on its own may be even stranger than scientists expected – as it is not one, but two objects.

Scientists now believe that the object might actually be two tiny brown dwarfs orbiting one another – and is the smallest binary system ever found.

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.

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After observing the objects – known as MASS J11193254–1137466 – with the Keck II telescope in Hawaii, scientists believe they are two brown dwarfs which orbit one another.

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It’s thought to be the lowest-mass binary system ever detected.

Writing in the blog of American Astronomical Society, the scientists say, ‘The team found that each component is a mere ~3.7 Jupiter masses, placing them in the fuzzy region between planets and stars.

‘Regardless of its definition, 2MASS J11193254–1137466AB qualifies as the lowest-mass binary discovered to date. The individual masses of the components also place them among the lowest-mass free-floating brown dwarfs known.

‘This system will therefore be a crucial benchmark for tests of evolutionary and atmospheric models for low-mass stars in the future.’

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