Astronomers have discovered a giant object roaming around the “galactic bulge”, in the heart of the Milky Way. It’s so big it might not actually be a planet.

The massive alien world circles a star located 22,000 light years away, at the center of the Milky Way’s bulge. Astronomers call this giant object OGLE-2016-BLG-1190Lb.

Researchers say the planet might be 13 times the size of Jupiter.  So, this has baffled them, as they are unsure of what it actually is.

The Discovery

They spotted the weird object using ‘microlensing’. This is a method where scientists measure distortions in light when a star passes in front of another star. They use the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE) collaboration.

OGLE is a Polish astronomical project based at the University of Warsaw. It searches the universe for dark matter and extrasolar planets.

Yes, the giant weirdo is orbiting its own star. However, scientists still think it actually is a failed star, known as a brown dwarf.

Brown dwarfs are objects too big to be a planet but too small to sustain the nuclear fusion which makes the stars burn.

Yoon-Hyun Ryu of the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute in Daejeon, South Korea, led the international team of researchers which published the work in the online print repository Arxiv.org.

“Since the existence of the brown dwarf desert is the signature of different formation mechanisms for stars and planets, the extremely close proximity of OGLE-2016-BLG-1190Lb to this desert raises the question of whether it is truly a ‘planet’ (by formation mechanism) and therefore reacts back upon its role tracing the galactic distribution of planets,” explained the authors of the study.

Researchers say, “We report the discovery of OGLE-2016-BLG-1190Lb, which is likely to be the first Spitzer microlensing planet in the galactic bulge/bar, an assignation that can be confirmed by two epochs of high-resolution imaging of the combined source-lens baseline object.”

 

Thumbnail image: Artist’s impression of a brown dwarf. A view from a rocky planet. Credit: Getty