Astronomers have found evidence that brown dwarf stars can play host to earth-sized planets. The suggestion was made after astronomers found evidence of tiny solid grains in a disk around ISO-Oph 102.
The brown dwarf studied is about 400 light-years away from Earth embedded inside a star nursery, reports NBC News. It is believed that a planet forms over time as grains orbiting a protostar collide and stick to each other.
While scientists initially believed that brown dwarf stars had few dusty particles and the ones they had traveled too fast for the process to take place, that theory may be debunked. Luca Ricci, the study’s lead researcher, stated:
“We were completely surprised to find millimeter-sized grains in this thin little disk. Solid grains of that size shouldn’t be able to form in the cold outer regions of a disk around a brown dwarf, but it appears that they do. We can’t be sure if a whole rocky planet could develop there, or already has, but we’re seeing the first steps.”
Space.com notes that, because of the new discovery, astronomers will likely be changing their theories on what kinds of planets can form around a brown dwarf star. Earth-sized rocky planets could potentially develop in this atmosphere.
The astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submilimeter Array (ALMA) in their study. The telescope is able to use radio waves to observe the light emitted by the disk surrounding ISO-Orph 102. They compared how bright the disk was in two different wavelengths: 0.035 inches and 0.13 inches.
The brightness dropped off less than they expected when they observed the brown dwarf at the larger millimeter size. The observation led them to conclude that some of the particles that are orbiting around the star are likely at least 0.039 inches in size, meaning they are the size needed to form a rocky, Earth-sized planet.
While the discovery allows scientists new theories into whether brown dwarf stars can host an Earth-sized planets, they may not know for sure until they encounter one.
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