"The newly found companion, HD 3651B, is 16 times further away from HD 3651 than Neptune is from the Sun. HD 3651B is the dimmest directly imaged companion of an exoplanet host star. Furthermore, as it is not detected on the photographic plates of the Palomar All Sky Survey, the companion must be even fainter in the visible spectral range than in the infrared, meaning it is a very cool low-mass sub-stellar object. Comparing its characteristics with theoretical models, the astronomers infer that the object has a mass between 20 and 60 Jupiter masses, and a temperature between 500 and 600 degrees Celsius. It is thus ten times colder and 300 000 less luminous than the Sun. These properties place it in the category of cool T-type brown dwarfs." (10)
This latest discovery was found in the constellation of Pisces, at a very great distance from the solar system. The brown dwarf shines brightly enough to be imaged at this distance because it is currently very youthful. Give it a few million years and the young fires in this companion failed star will burn out, leaving it a dark ember in space. I suspect that this happens across the galaxy during the emergence of star systems. I believe that the clusters of new stars contain fields of planetary and sub-stellar objects intertwined with the larger stars. As the clusters break up, some brown dwarfs will remain as dark companions, whilst others will float freely in inter-stellar space.
Just in case you believed that our Sun was somehow created differently from this sort of scenario, new scientific thinking establishes the fact that the Sun was born in a cluster of stars, and that the Sun had sisters! (11) As such, it would seem no surprise to find out that our Sun has a remnant dark sub-stellar companion orbiting it at a great distance.
New Extremophiles Discovered
You'll have probably already heard about the bacteria at the bottom of the ocean that thrives on geo-thermally heated lava springs. This bacteria is not connected with the standard pattern of life on Earth, which is built upon the heat and light of the Sun. Now there is a new set of extremophiles to consider, this time existing at a great depth in the Earth's crust (12). They point the way towards a new ecosystem existing beneath the surface of the Earth, and quite possibly beneath the surface of various other planets and moons in the Solar System. Which moves us another step forward...
"Researchers have found what they say are isolated bacterial colonies flourishing deeper in the Earth’s crust than was known to be possible. The strange beings thrive on radioactive water, in a harsh setting cut off from surface life and its dependence on sun energy, the scientists claim. That, they add, raises hopes that other planets in our solar system could also harbour hardy microbes within them. “We know surprisingly little about the origin, evolution and limits for life on Earth,” said bio-geochemist Lisa Pratt of Indiana University Bloomington, a member of the research team.
“Scientists are just beginning to study the diverse organisms living in the deepest parts of the ocean. The rocky crust on Earth is virtually unexplored at depths more than half a kilometre below the surface. The organisms we describe in this paper live in a completely different world than the one we know.”
The researchers argued that the bacterial communities they found are permanent, apparently millions of years old, and depend on radiation from uranium ores rather than sunlight. This raises the possibility that similar bacteria could live beneath the surfaces of worlds such as Mars or Jupiter’s moon Europa, the scientists said." (13)
Planets form around tiny brown dwarfs
Marshall Masters sent me a link to a news story from last year which I hadn't come across before. It likely links in with more recent discoveries of planets actually found orbiting brown dwarfs in the Chamaeleon I star-forming region, although these latest discoveries are wide binaries rather than habitable-zone rocky planets. There's some juicy info in here, for sure, like the ratio of planet-mass to host brown dwarf:
"The discovery calls for a rethink of how diverse planetary systems can be, says Kevin Luhman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US. "We always just think of planets forming around stars about the mass of our Sun," he says. "But they could form in more exotic situations around very small brown dwarfs - there might be mini solar systems out there." (14)
The lightweight brown dwarf, first identified five years ago, lies about 500 light years away in a star formation region called Chamaeleon I. Earlier observations revealed large amounts of water in its atmosphere.
The new observations by Spitzer clearly reveal signs of a disc around the dwarf, and suggest the inner rim of the disc lies about 700,000 kilometres from the dwarf's centre. Discs around brown dwarfs typically weigh about one-tenth of the mass of the star itself, so in this case it probably contains one or two Jupiter masses of available planet-building material. "I'd speculate that it could build a Saturn, or maybe a few smaller Earth-sized planets," says Luhman
What is more, these would-be planets could be habitable. The surface temperature of the mini brown dwarf is about 2000°C, which means that any planet 1.5 to 7 million kilometres away could maintain liquid water. The disc probably straddles this range.
Luhman hopes to find out whether even smaller objects - perhaps as little as five times the mass of Jupiter - can reign at the centre of nascent planetary systems. "It's still an open question as to how small you can go, but hopefully we'll be able to answer that soon."
"Spitzer really is a killer instrument for detecting this kind of object," says Andrew Collier Cameron, who studies extrasolar planets at St Andrews University, UK. He adds that the new result suggests brown dwarfs could prove to be fertile hunting grounds for planets, and it might be possible to image these planets directly - without being blinded by the glare that shines out from regular stars."
Brown Dwarf Remnant of Stellar Cannibalism
It's an odd story, this one. Certain kinds of binary star systems have a process going on whereby one of the stars feeds off the other, causing the latter to diminish in size over time.
Theory has shown that eventually the stellar 'victim' becomes a brown dwarf, and its orbit around the 'cannibal' star gets longer over time. Recently, one of these brown dwarfs was discovered:
Reference: (Article on longer available) With thanks to David Pearson and Peter Gersten, but see
Astronomers model 'binary' Solar System
Recent computer simulations have now proved that if the Sun had a binary companion, planets would still form around it.
Complex and time-consuming calculations using mainframe computers have shown that a allowing for a wide binary stellar object does little to alter the structure of the planetary system that forms. As long as the binary companion stays beyond Saturn's orbit:
""The disk is modelled after the
Solar nebula," Quintana explains, "we're comparing the planet formation process
in these binaries to models of the Solar System." In other words, they are
trying to find out what our Solar system might have looked like if the Sun were
a binary star.
All of their simulations form at
least one planet, an encouraging result. It turns out that the most important
factor is the companion star's periastron, or point of closest approach to the
star with the disk. A companion that gets as close as the orbit of Saturn (about
10 times farther than the Earth from the Sun) removes very little material from
the inner disk, and even speeds up the process of planet formation by nudging
the planetesimals into different orbits from time to time. A companion star that
gets as close as Jupiter (about 5 times farther than the Earth from the Sun),
however, will limit planet formation to the hottest central regions.
"Over half of the binaries [in astronomical surveys] are wide enough to allow planet formation in the habitable zone of solar-type stars." Elisa Quintana [of NASA's Ames Institute] concludes." (15)
Santa's Surprise Collision
That Kuiper Belt is doing its strange stuff again. Dr Mike Brown, that leading discoverer of outer solar system planets, has found a KBO shaped like a rugby ball.
It may be on its way towards a close encounter with Neptune in the future, which may divert its path into the inner solar system. One can just imagine the god Neptune booting 2003 EL61 towards the rest of his team-mates in about 2 million years time. It would be quite something to score a drop-kick from the back of the pitch! Also, quite a kick is needed by Neptune: 2003 EL61 is about the same size as Pluto. (16)
This unusual orbital behaviour is matched by the bizarre shape of this object. Speculation in the astronomical community is growing that 2003 EL61 (initially nicknamed 'Santa') was subject to a violent collision sometime in the past (17). The odds of such an event occurring in the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt as it is known to exist today are very long indeed. The objects in the belt are simply too scattered to present any kind of risk to one another.
Yet, this object appears to have taken a big knock, and may be on of a number of such objects in the belt.
"Flanked by two moonlets, 2003 EL61 measures
some 1,500 kilometers (950 miles) across, tumbling over and over at a prodigious
rate and pursuing a weird egg-shaped orbit inclined at nearly 30 degrees to the
plane at which almost all of the Solar System's objects travel.
"[Dr Michael] Brown's team found five other rocks, measuring between 10 and 400 kilometers (six and 250 miles) across, that they believe were smashed away from 2003 EL61 in the distant past. The cluster shares the same colour and the light they reflect has a signature that suggests they are covered with surface water ice." (17)
The astronomers speculate that the collision which sheared all of these smaller objects from 'Santa' took place around the time of the Earth's formation. Interesting, don't you think? It has to be said that the likelihood of that having happened is not very high...unless the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt contained a great many more objects 4+ billion years ago. Add in a Dark Star to the equation and the whole scenario then makes much more sense...
Binary Stars can yield Planetary Systems
"Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have observed that planetary systems – dusty disks of asteroids, comets and possibly planets – are at least as abundant in twin-star systems as they are in those, like our own, with only one star. Since more than half of all stars are twins, or binaries, the finding suggests the universe is packed with planets that have two suns. Sunsets on some of those worlds would resemble the ones on Luke Skywalker's planet, Tatooine, where two fiery balls dip below the horizon one by one.
"There appears to be no bias against having planetary system formation in binary systems," said David Trilling of the University of Arizona, Tucson, lead author of a new paper about the research appearing in the April 1 issue of the Astrophysical Journal. "There could be countless planets out there with two or more suns." " (19)
For more information on 'Santa' and other strange KBOs, visit my 'Xena' page.
'New Earth' around Gliese 581
A red dwarf star some 20 light years from us has attracted the interest of astronomers searching for potential life-supporting planets. Gliese 581 has thrown up a new planet, this one lying within the system's planetary 'habitable zone'. Temperatures on this new planet are just right for liquid water to exist on the planet's surface. Where there's liquid water, there could be life.
Gliese 581 is much smaller than the Sun, so its habitable zone is much closer. The new planet lies just 6 million miles away from Gliese 581, and travels around the star in just 13 days. They lie so close together that the red Sun would appear massive in its sky, rather like this:
These great pictures appear in the Daily Mail. Note the similarities in design between this last picture and my own painting of the Dark Star from the surface of one of its moons, a painting which appears on the cover of my book:
Nice to be making an impression amongst science journalists, finally!! This discovery adds further credence to the notion of habitable 'moons' orbiting dwarf stars, some of which are much more active and exotic than previously thought (see next item below). The search for life seems destined to make its breakthrough amongst the dwarf stars. This is because smaller, Earth-sized planets are more able to be directly imaged and investigated when found orbiting around these smaller, dimmer stars, although the technology for this is several years away yet. Even so, the bookmakers William Hill have shortened the odds on proving the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence from 1,000-1 to 100-1.
Brown dwarfs: A new class of stellar lighthouse
Some brown dwarfs, which are highly active in the radio wave part of the electro-magnetic spectrum, appear to share similar attributes to pulsars.
Image Credit: Hallinan et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF
This surprising result indicates that these dark, 'failed stars' are far from dead...
"Brown dwarfs, thought just a few years ago to be incapable of emitting any significant amounts of radio waves, have been discovered putting out extremely bright "lighthouse beams" of radio waves, much like pulsars." (20)
Red Giant's Enormous Tail Stuns Astronomers
Here's a startling discovery that is important for my 'Dark Star Theory'. Stars with tails have deep symbolic meaning to those associated with the hunt for Planet X/Nibiru.
Here's the story:
"A distant star that hurtles through space at extraordinary speeds has a huge, comet-like tail trailing in its wake, astronomers say.
The appendage, which measures a colossal 13 light years in length, was spotted by Nasa's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (Galex) space telescope. The researchers said that nothing like it had ever been spotted around a star. They believe the star, known as Mira, will help them to study what happens as stars meet their demise.
Mark Seibert, a co-author of the paper, which was published in the journal Nature, and a scientist at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, said: "This is an utterly new phenomenon to us, and we are still in the process of understanding the physics involved."
Racing through space
Mira (also called Mira A) has captivated astronomers for more than 400 years. It sits about 350 light-years from Earth in a constellation known as Cetus, and is accompanied in orbit by a smaller secondary star, called Mira B, forming a binary system.
Billions of years ago, Mira would have been much like our Sun, but as it now enters its death-throes it has swollen into a type of star known as a red giant. As it races through space at 130km/s (80 miles per second) it sheds vast amounts of material. Yet despite centuries of study, its spectacular tail had remained undetected.
Now, ultraviolet images taken by the Galex space telescope have uncovered Mira's unusual feature.
"The fact that Mira's tail only glows with ultraviolet light might explain why other telescopes have missed it." The ultraviolet images also revealed a "bow shock" - a region, in front of the star, where hot gas builds up as Mira's stellar wind meets clouds of interstellar gas and dust.
The team believes that the hot gas in the bow shock is heating up gas that the star is shedding to create a turbulent tail trailing in its wake. The scientists said that the tail was made up of the material that Mira has been ejecting over a period of 30,000 years." (21)
Sedna: Astronomers Suggest Jupiter-sized Perturber
One of my research associates, Rajasun, sent me some fascinating academic material a while ago. Amongst the papers and forum debates is this paper written by some mainstream professors about the potential for a Jupiter-sized planet within the Oort Cloud. I know I may seem a bit way out there with this Dark Star theory, but there are some serious astronomers who pondered the same ideas just last year. They were attempting to explain the strange trajectory of Sedna and other similar anomalous bodies (DDOs). Here's the abstract. For the full paper, click on the link below
"Most known trans-neptunian objects (TNO’s) are either on low eccentricity orbits or could have been perturbed to their current trajectories via gravitational interactions with known bodies. However, one or two recently-discovered TNO’s are distant detached objects (DDO’s) (perihelion, q > 40 AU and semimajor axis, a > 50 AU) whose origins are not as easily understood. We investigate the parameter space of a hypothetical distant planetary-mass solar companion which could detach the perihelion of a Neptune-dominated TNO into a DDO orbit. Perturbations of the giant planets are also included. The problem is analyzed using two models.
"In the first model, we start with a distribution of undetached, low-inclination TNO’s having a wide range of semimajor axes. The planetary perturbations and the companion perturbation are treated in the adiabatic, secularly averaged tidal approximation. This provides a starting point for a more detailed analysis by providing insights as to the companion parameter space likely to create DDO’s. The second model includes the companion and the planets and numerically integrates perturbations on a sampling that is based on the real population of scattered disk objects (SDO’s).
"A single calculation is performed including
the mutual interactions and migration of the planets. By comparing these
models, we distinguish the distant detached population that can be attributable
to the secular interaction from those that require additional planetary
perturbations. We find that a DDO can be produced by a hypothetical Neptune-mass
companion having semiminor axis, b
</=2000 AU or a Jupiter-mass companion with b</= 5000 AU. DDO’s produced by such a
companion are likely to have small inclinations to the ecliptic only if
the companion’s orbit is significantly inclined. We also discuss the possibility
that the tilt of the planets’ invariable plane relative to the solar
equatorial plane has been produced by such a hypothetical distant planetary-mass
companion. Perturbations of a companion on Oort cloud comets are also
Written by Andy Lloyd, 2006 - 2007
Published by Timeless Voyager Press
1) Helen Briggs "Dwarf survives in stellar furnace" 2 August 2006
2) National Optical Astronomy Observatory Noao press release (article on longer online)
3) BBC News "Strange New Twin Worlds Found" 3 August 2006
4) McMaster University "Smashing young stars leave dwarfs in their wake" 9 June 2006
5) Robert Roy Britt "Strange New Worlds Could Make Miniature Solar Systems" 5 June 2006 with thanks to David Pearson and Phil Whitley
6) Dr Brownlee, Stardust Principle Investigator, "Stardust Analysis Update" 12 May 2006
7) University of Michigan "Floating Pile Of Rubble A Pristine Record Of Solar System's History" 2 June 2006
9) ESA "Rosetta asteroid flyby reveals diamond in the sky" 6 Sept 2008
10) Sam Savage "The Star, the Dwarf and the Planet: First Directly Imaged Brown Dwarf Companion to an Exoplanet Host Star" 19 October 2006
11) Robin Lloyd "In Formative Years, the Sun Had Sisters" 24 October 2006
12) World Science "Strange, underworld microbes raise hopes for alien life" 19 October 06 (article on longer online)
13) Carnegie Institute "Otherworldly bacteria discovered two miles down" 20 October 2006
14) H. Muir "Brown Dwarf may someday harbour habitable planets" 8 February 2005
15) PhysOrg.com "Terrestrial Planet Formation in Binary Star Systems" 26 Jan 2007
16) Paul Rincon "Dwarf planet 'becoming a comet': An unusual dwarf planet discovered in the outer Solar System could be en route to becoming the brightest comet ever known. " 17 January 2007
17) PhysOrg.com "Kuiper-belt Object Was Broken up by Massive Impact 4.5 Billion Years Ago, Study Shows" 14th March 2007
18) Whitney Clavin "Spitzer Finds Planets Thrive Around Stellar Twins" 29 March 2007
19) Daily Mail "Found 20 light years away: the New Earth" 25th April 2007
20) NRAO Press Release "Brown dwarfs: A new class of stellar lighthouse" 17 April 2007 With thanks to David Pearson
21) "Colossal tail trails dying star" 15th August 2007 With thanks to Brian Forsyth
22) Rodney S. Gomes, John J. Matese, Jack J. Lissauer "A distant planetary-mass solar companion may have produced distant detached objects” Icarus, 184: 589–601, (2006)