Astronomers Directly Image Super-Jupiter Around Kappa Andromedae

Posted on November 19, 2012

Super Jupiter Kappa Andromedae B

Astronomers have directly imaged a "super-Jupiter" around the bright star Kappa Andromedae. Astronomers used infrared red data from Hawaii's Subaru Telescope to image the massive object, which has a mass of 12.8 times that of Jupiter. The astronomers say the object, called Kappa Andromedae b, is either a planet or a brown dwarf. An artist's rendering of the super-Jupiter is pictured above.

Michael McElwain, a member of the discovery team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md, said in a release, "According to conventional models of planetary formation, Kappa And b falls just shy of being able to generate energy by fusion, at which point it would be considered a brown dwarf rather than a planet. But this isn't definitive, and other considerations could nudge the object across the line into brown dwarf territory."

The astronomers say that if an object is massive enough it can produce energy internally by fusing a heavy form of hydrogen called deuterium. This fusion occurs around a mass of 13 Jupiters, which is the lowest possible mass for a brown dwarf. The super-Jupiter discovered is slightly less than this mass.

A paper describing the results has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and will appear in a future issue.

Photo: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger

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