Planets without stars might hint to common mechanism of planet formation
from Ars Technica
Could reports of planets with no apparent star to orbit really be examples of common instances of massive gravitational collapses of gas clouds without fusion? A recent observation points to that possibility. Stars form when gas clouds condense in their gravitational fields igniting sustained fusion reactions. Brown dwarfs are stars where the collapse is not powerful enough to sustain fusion reactions. One rough distinguishing characterization of planet formation, as opposed to star formation, is the gravitational collapse of clouds of gas plus dust without the ignition of fusion reactions. Recent observations of the object CFBDSIRJ214947.2-040308.9, reported in
Astronomy & Astrophysics
, has led astronomers to conclude that it formed through this mechanism, rather than from a planetary disk, which typically is associated with a star. CFBDSIRJ214947.2-040308.9 does not have a nearby star, and that allowed researchers to get detailed information about its atmosphere, and to determine that its mass is too small to have ever supported fusion. This then suggests that there are many other planetary objects out there waiting to be discovered.
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