A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[BRIEF NOTE] Life, life abounding?

atomic_orrery has been kind enough to point out that “Gliese 581, known in the game [of 2300AD] as DM-7 4003, has just been found to harbour a hot Neptune massing around 17 times that of the Earth, orbiting with a period of some 5.366 days at a mean distance of 6 million km.” This, on the same day that gridlore links to news that brown dwarves form their own planetary systems.

Astronomers peering through ground- and space-based telescopes have discovered what they believe is the birth of the smallest known solar system.

Scientists found a tiny brown dwarf — or failed star — less than one hundredth the mass of the sun surrounded by what appears to be a disk of dust and gas.

The brown dwarf — located 500 light years away in the constellation Chamaeleon — appears to be undergoing a planet-forming process that could one day yield a miniature solar system, said Kevin Luhman of Penn State University, who led the discovery.

It’s long believed that our solar system came into existence when a huge cloud of gas and dust collapsed to form the sun and planets about 4.5 billion years ago.

The latest finding is intriguing because it’s the smallest known brown dwarf to be discovered with planet-forming properties. If the disk forms planets, the resulting solar system will be about 100 times smaller than our system, scientists say.

It’s encouraging to learn that not only do low-mass stars and objects on the vast fuzzy border between stars and planets form their own planetary systems, but that these planetary systems might well tend to be more compact than those of hot bright stars like our own Sun. Low-mass stellar objects are dim, you see, and the closer a world is to such a faint stellar fire the more likely it is to be potentially habitable. Might it be too much to hope for more Mars, at least, out there orbiting red and brown dwarves, if not Earths?

Written by Randy McDonald

November 30, 2005 at 2:22 pm

Posted in Assorted

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