Scientists have discovered an exotic binary system of two young planet-like objects. Although they look like giant exoplanets, they formed in the same way as stars.
Star formation processes sometimes create mysterious astronomical objects – brown dwarfs smaller and cooler than stars. And in the most extreme cases, their mass and temperature are equal to the mass and temperature of exoplanets. Like stars, brown dwarfs often roam alone in space, but they are also found in binary systems, where two brown dwarfs orbit each other and travel together through the galaxy.
Researchers led by Clemence Fontanive of the Center for Space and Habitability (CSH) at the University of Bern have discovered a curious starless binary system of brown dwarfs. The CFHTWIR-Oph 98 system (or, for short, Oph 98) consists of two very low-mass objects, Oph 98 A and Oph 98 B. It is located 450 light-years from Earth in the Ophiuchus star cluster. Scientists were surprised that Oph 98 A and B rotate around each other at an astonishing distance. It is 5 times the distance between Pluto and the Sun and 200 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun.
This pair is a rare example of two objects, similar in many respects to extrasolar giant planets, orbiting each other without a parent star. The more massive component, Oph 98 A, is a young brown dwarf with a mass 15 times that of Jupiter. Scientists note that the object is located on the border separating brown dwarfs from planets. Its satellite, Oph 98 B, is only 8 times heavier than Jupiter.
Clemence Fontanive and her colleagues discovered the satellite Oph 98 A using images from the Hubble Space Telescope.
The binary system Oph 98 was formed only 3 million years ago. Astronomically, it is literally “yesterday.”