First photograph of object around a sun-like star

Astronomers took the first direct image of a planet-like object orbiting a star that is very much like our sun. A breakthrough, similar to this, was announced last year as well, with astronomers revealing direct images of a single-planet and multiple-planet system. The host stars of systems such as these are giants in comparison to the sun.

Pictures of the newly identified object were taken in May and August, while test runs were being carried out of a new planet-hunting instrument on the Hawaii-based Subaru telescope.

Named GJ 758 B, the object orbits a parent star, which is quite similar in mass and temperature to our own sun. The star is located 300 trillion miles or about 50 light years from Earth.

However, scientists are yet to confirm if the object is in fact a planet or a brown dwarf: a failed star. Estimations indicate it to be 10-40 times that of Jupiter, while objects above 13 Jupiters are considered to be brown dwarves.

Michael McElwain of Princeton University said, “Brown dwarf companions to solar-type stars are extremely rare. It is exciting to find something that is so cool and so low mass with a separation similar to our solar system around a nearby star.”

Like the Earth’s distance to the sun, the object is currently at least 29 times far from its star. Almost like the distance between the sun and Neptune. The orbiting of an object at this location, challenges traditional thinking on the manner in which planets are formed.

Alan Boss, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C. says, “This challenging but beautiful detection of a very low mass companion to a sun-like star reminds us again how little we truly know about the census of gas giant planets and brown dwarfs around nearby stars. Observations like this will enable theorists to begin to make sense of how this hitherto unseen population of bodies was able to form and evolve.”