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Object Defies Categorization As Planet or Star 119

Kligat writes "The COROT project of the French Space Agency has detected an object described as defying categorization as a planet, star, or brown dwarf. Although only 0.8 times the radius of Jupiter, it is over 20 times as massive, giving it a density twice that of the metal platinum. If it is a star, it would be the smallest of those ever discovered."
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Object Defies Categorization As Planet or Star

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  • Um... (Score:5, Funny)

    by IronMagnus ( 777535 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @05:49PM (#23659723)
    Thats no moon...
  • by hostyle ( 773991 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @05:50PM (#23659739)
    Eh. how about calling it "large dense object in space" also known as The Shatner
  • How massive (Score:5, Funny)

    by powerlord ( 28156 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @05:51PM (#23659755) Journal
    Oddly enough, the interstitial ad for this is for "Mass Effect"
  • by Swizec ( 978239 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @05:56PM (#23659855) Homepage
    Only Chuck Norris could ever be denser than platinum, so this is either him or soon getting destroyed because only Chuck Norris can defy the laws of physics.
  • by fitten ( 521191 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @05:57PM (#23659865)
    Quick... somebody run find Leeloo...
  • Sorry... (Score:1, Funny)

    by Volatar ( 1099775 )
    My bathroom broke on an interstellar sight-seeing trip and I had to go real bad...
  • by OMNIpotusCOM ( 1230884 ) * on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @05:59PM (#23659907) Homepage Journal
    ...needs classification badly
  • It's a Dwarf! (Score:5, Informative)

    by flaming error ( 1041742 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @06:03PM (#23659979) Journal
    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_dwarf [wikipedia.org]:

    Brown dwarfs are sub-stellar objects with a mass below that necessary to maintain hydrogen-burning nuclear fusion reactions in their cores, as do stars on the main sequence, but which have fully convective surfaces and interiors, with no chemical differentiation by depth. Brown dwarfs occupy the mass range between that of large gas giant planets and the lowest mass stars; this upper limit is between 75[1] and 80 Jupiter masses (MJ). Currently there is some debate as to what criterion to use to define the separation between a brown dwarf from a giant planet at very low brown dwarf masses (~13 MJ ), and whether brown dwarfs are required to have experienced fusion at some point in their history. In any event, brown dwarfs heavier than 13 MJ do fuse deuterium and those above ~65 MJ also fuse lithium.
    • Yes but they don't have such high densities - I think the point is that it's a huge anomaly for it to have such a high mass with such a small radius - it probably has to be way denser than any brown dwarf could be (as it would have to contain a lot of elements heavier than helium).

      I might be wrong, this is just the impression I got as a physics undergrad.
      • Re:It's a Dwarf! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by PakProtector ( 115173 ) <(cevkiv) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @06:41PM (#23660623) Journal

        Dear Gods. Maybe it's a black dwarf. A dead star that burned through all its nuclear fuel long ago and has since cooled.

        • Re:It's a Dwarf! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Goobermunch ( 771199 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @06:51PM (#23660799)
          If it is, we're going to have to reevaluate the age of the universe.

          Theoretically speaking, it should take longer than the current estimated age of the universe for a star to go through the evolution to red giant to white dwarf to black dwarf.

          If it is a black dwarf, that'd be flipping cool.

          • That would be pretty sweet.

            Because it might imply an entire Jupiter-sized planet mass traveling backwards through time in order to age that much.
          • It can't be a black dwarf under current theories, at least those that you (and I) are aware of.

            However, just about a hundred years ago, it wasn't possible for the sun to have been burning for as long as it had been, yet it was there.

            • It can't be a black dwarf under current theories, at least those that you (and I) are aware of.

              IANAA*, but theoretically, could something have potentially contributed to its early demise? Maybe some other heavenly body was sucking the life out of it..

              (*I am not an astronomer..)
              • by Urkki ( 668283 )

                Maybe some other heavenly body was sucking the life out of it..

                No, the problem is heat. A white dwarf has an awful lot of heat. And only known way for a white dwarf to lose heat and cool down is thermal radiation, which is very very slow compared to the amount of heat in a white dwarf. The heat can't be "sucked out" of a white dwarf, so even if a white dwarf was created almost immediately after the big bang, it'd still be very hot.

                Well, I guess you could imagine building a huge cooling pipe system out of some sort of neutronium matter, drill the pipes into the degener

                • This sounds just like my son's old Athlon 2.7 processor. Just be sure to use lots of thermal paste, and don't forget to plug in the fan-- ever!
                • What if its heat was 'used', in the sense that we're looking at an (ex-)Dyson sphere? that would certainly make things interesting all of a sudden :)
                  • Probably has the wrong spectral signature for that. Unless you can build a dyson sphere out of diatomic hydrogren...
              • Like maybe a RIAA lawyer - they're not technically Heavanly Bodies since the Fall, but it'd kinda fit...
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                Maybe it was married.
          • Due to the non-uniform passage of time, the universe is not the same age everywhere.
          • by darkonc ( 47285 )
            Perhaps it's a star that supernovaed and blew off all of it's lighter elements before collapsing into a pseudo-black dwarf.

            There explanations besides simple atomic evolution for results like this.

        • As the person says about, not in the age of the Universe. I don't know how old it would have to be, but to be that mass I'm fairly sure it would need to be several times older than the Universe itself at least.

          I guess though, the point is noone is really sure what it is yet. My personal guess would be the core of a larger object that somehow lost its envelope, but wasn't dense enough to form a white dwarf, but it's a bit of a mystery.
        • Dear Gods. Maybe it's a black dwarf.
          Leave Gary Coleman alone!
        • Actually it prefers the term "Non-luminous Little Person".

          • And I prefer to be called, "the Master," but you don't see me going around forcing my will upon the people of Earth, now do you, Doctor?

      • by Rei ( 128717 )
        It makes me wonder if it's a fairly standard rocky planet apart from being of tremendous size. Anyone have any idea how much iron would compress on a planet that massive? The bigger the planet, the higher the density, even if they're made of the same materials.

        It's pretty amazing to think of. I wonder what the surface of that thing is like? I didn't see any information on the article as to what star it was orbitting or how close, so I don't have any idea what it's surface temperature is like. I doubt i
        • The bigger the planet, the higher the density, even if they're made of the same materials.



          Note that one is bigger than the other and the smaller one has a higher density.

  • it's dark matter (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ILuvRamen ( 1026668 )
    Well assuming it isn't as simple as "well it does/doesn't give off light so it is/isn't a star" even though I have no idea why it's not that simple, I'd say it's a good candidate for what most dark matter is. If it doesn't give off light and isn't close enough to a star to be seen (I mean this one is buy others like it) then it's dark, effectively invisible matter. If a nebula comes together from gravity and it's a really, really small nebula, it could form one of these instead of a star and we simply wou
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ChowRiit ( 939581 )
      We've searched for large, dense objects that create dark matter (MACHOs) with microlensing, but there aren't nearly enough. Combined with some other properties of dark matter observed in other galaxies, where it appears to be distinct from normal matter, we're fairly sure now that it's small particles with a mass, such as neutrinos or some as yet undiscovered particle (WIMPs). Wikipedia will probably tell you more.
    • FWIW: IANAAP (Score:5, Informative)

      by Goobermunch ( 771199 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @06:58PM (#23660879)
      Except that Dark Matter as we currently understand it is not simply matter that's "in the dark." Under current cosmological theory, regular baryonic matter, makes up only a small fraction of the universe, with dark matter (i.e., non-baryonic matter) making up some of the rest and dark energy making up approximately 70%.

      So while this object contributes to some of the missing mass in the universe, it's probably not the kind of thing that properly would be called dark matter.

    • I think we need another classification of matter. How about "does it matter"?
      • by SEWilco ( 27983 )

        I think we need another classification of matter. How about "does it matter"?
        So you're saying we should call this a DIM star.
        • I think we need another classification of matter. How about "does it matter"?
          So you're saying we should call this a DIM star.
          Exactly. If something doesn't fit in any existing category, we obviously need a new category.
    • that's not what dark matter is. dark matter is the stuff that fills gaps in equations.
  • And bigger than a burning Uranus, call it a stanet, or a plar...

    Actually, I was trying to be silly with Spoonerism, but, upon checking Google, sure enough, it has been done:

    http://www.futuresoon.com/2008/04/six-for-science_11.html [futuresoon.com]

    And, done here, too:

    http://uplink.space.com/printthread.php?Cat=&Board=sciastro&main=570057&type=thread [space.com]
  • by delibes ( 303485 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @07:02PM (#23660941)
    OK, dense large planet, interesting... hang on, what about the other bit in the article?!
    Other signals detected by the satellite could also indicate the existence of another exoplanet with a radius 1.7 times that of Earth's.
    The little green men are getting more likely all the time...
  • by AstrumPreliator ( 708436 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @07:23PM (#23661239)
    It can't be a planet, by definition:

    * is in orbit around the Sun,
    * has sufficient mass so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and
    * has "cleared the neighbourhood" around its orbit.
    Emphasis mine.
    • Sorry to reply to myself, but the article actually does specify exoplanet multiple times. So the summary is slightly wrong. I hate being pedantic but the IAU forced me to do it! =)
      • I might forgive you if you realize how you just demonstrated how useless such definitions actually are when it comes to increasing our knowledge.

        • by clonan ( 64380 )
          That is a typo...

          It's suppose to be in orbit around IT'S sun.

          In other words, an object that has been ejected from a solar system is NOT a planet.
        • Only if by "our" you mean specifically on /. and additional pop-sci places and not in general (such as for between scientists and such).
  • You think ? (Score:1, Troll)

    by unity100 ( 970058 )
    who can stand against the power of astronomers ?

    pluto was not able to defy reclassification as 'not planet' after a few hundred years.

    a commission of astronomers may rule it back to being a planet 5-10 years later.

    you know what ? f@ck astronomers. ill teach my kids that pluto is a planet.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by amilham ( 737749 )

      pluto was not able to defy reclassification as 'not planet' after a few hundred years.
      Except that Pluto wasn't even discovered until 1930. Not really 'a few hundred years'.
    • The problem that Pluto had that led to its demotion is that it has nothing special, it one in many bodies that exists beyond the gas giants, and the only thing that makes it particular is that it was found long before the others because it gave away its position by interfering with the orbit of a planet.

      On a strictly technical point of view, it is mostly a large chunk of ice that has a non-circular orbit outside of the planets orbital plan, so calling it a dwarf planet is a polite way of not calling it a la
      • that classifications we maintain for comets, planets, gas giants are entirely our own invention, and can change upon whim. 'declassification' of pluto just proved that.

        its rather meaningless. if pluto had atmosphere, would i be able to live on it ? if thats so, i call it a planet. and noone can change my mind.
  • by Zarf ( 5735 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @08:10PM (#23661589) Journal
    Woo! That movie is gonna be awesome!
    • You mean Space Indiana Jones and the Platinum Planet.
      • by Zarf ( 5735 )

        You mean Space Indiana Jones and the Platinum Planet.
        Well after "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" I think you don't need the word "Space" it's a given now.
  • Feh... (Score:4, Funny)

    by msauve ( 701917 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @08:10PM (#23661593)
    it's just a Nibblonian [wikipedia.org] latrine.
  • fire missiles at it. You gotta remember that evil begets evil. That thing will fuck up your ship.
  • by Fieryphoenix ( 1161565 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @10:24PM (#23662939)
    Geraldo Springer: I must insist you answer me! Are you a planet, or a star?

    Unclassified Object: I may be a star... perhaps.
    [lays pinky finger to corner of mouth]
    Or am I a planet?
    Or maybe, just maybe
    [faces away from camera, drops pants, bends over]
    I AM A MOON!
  • So, you have detected the home planet Eddore. Destruction of your paltry rock world will begin shortly.
  • Irony (Score:2, Insightful)

    Didn't the IAU just "figure out" the definitions of stars and planets? Are we going to have another year long line of BS talks and arguments, ending in a bad definition that rewrites every science book and generally gives everyone a headache? I hope not...
  • FSA? (Score:3, Funny)

    by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @03:29AM (#23664839)
    The French Space Agency? That's funny, I'm French and I didn't even know we had that. Don't they mean European rather than French?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Celandine ( 610250 )
      No. The French, Italians, Dutch etc all have their own space agencies in addition to ESA. (However I have never seen the acronym FSA used for the French one: it's the CNES [www.cnes.fr], the Centre National d'Etudes spatiales.)
      • by 4D6963 ( 933028 )

        The Dutch have their own space agency? Makes you wonder how their rockets must do to get high.

    • by Exaton ( 523551 )
      I had the exact same reaction.

      As Wikipedia soon indicated, however, and as the brother post has mentioned, the summary is referring to the CNES :)
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The French Space Agency? That's funny, I'm French and I didn't even know we had that. Don't they mean European rather than French?
      No it is french: it is the CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales).
      The COROT has been designed by a french team and launched by Soyouz end 2006.
      http://www.cnes.fr/web/652-corot.php (french website)

      And now, some jokes about Anonymous Cowards, and the french posts.
  • 1 x 4 x 9?
  • I sometimes find it funny when scientists are surprised at something new that defies their logic. We live in a huge [poor word] existence [since we don't know how big and current words may not be enough]. I'm excited myself to the new discoveries that will continue to take place. I only wish I could live longer to see some of the major changes that I think will take place after a couple of centuries [if we still exist].
  • Does it fuse? No? Then it is not a sun, or?
    Ergo it is a planet!!

    No idea why anyone claims the object could not be categorized.
    Did you ever notice that the planets closer to the sun are mainly rock/metal and the ones farer away are mainly gas/ice?
    So if you have an exo planet very close to his sun it will likely be a rocky planet (for various reasons beyond a short answer here), if it is a heavy rocky planet it will be likely smaller than a similar heavy gas planet.

    As the planet is mainly rock/metal it CAN'T

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