New Limit on the Definition of a Planet Proposed

In a paper just published by the Astrophysical Journal, Schlaufman has set the upper boundary of planet mass between four and 10 times the mass of the planet Jupiter.

Schlaufman, an assistant professor in the university’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, says setting a limit is possible now mainly due to improvements in the technology and techniques of astronomical observation. The advancements have made it possible to discover many more planetary systems outside our solar system and therefore possible to see robust patterns that lead to new revelations.

“While we think we know how planets form in a big-picture sense, there’s still a lot of detail we need to fill in,” Schlaufman said. “An upper boundary on the masses of planets is one of the most prominent details that was missing.”

The conclusions in the new paper are based on observations of 146 solar systems, Schlaufman said. Almost all the data he used was measured in a uniform way, he said. The data are more consistent from one solar system to the next, and so more reliable.

Defining a planet, distinguishing it from other celestial objects, is a bit like narrowing down a list of criminal suspects. It’s one thing to know you’re looking for someone who is taller than 5-foot-8, it’s another to know your suspect is between 5-foot-8 and 5-foot-10.

In this instance, investigators want to distinguish between two suspects: a giant planet and a celestial object called a brown dwarf. Brown dwarfs are more massive than planets, but less massive than the smallest stars. They are thought to form as stars do.

For decades brown dwarfs have posed a problem for scientists: how to distinguish low-mass brown dwarfs from especially massive planets? Mass alone isn’t enough to tell the difference bzween the two, Schlaufman said. Some other property was needed to draw the line.

In Schlaufman’s new argument, the missing property is the chemical makeup of a solar system’s own sun. He says you can know your suspect, a planet, not just by itssize, but also by the company it keeps. Giant planets such as Jupiter are almost always found orbiting stars that have more iron than our sun. Brown dwarfs are not so discriminating.

Author: Mitch Battros

Mitch Battros is a scientific journalist who is highly respected in both the scientific and spiritual communities due to his unique ability to bridge the gap between modern science and ancient text. Founded in 1995 – Earth Changes TV was born with Battros as its creator and chief editor for his syndicated television show. In 2003, he switched to a weekly radio show as Earth Changes Media. ECM quickly found its way in becoming a top source for news and discoveries in the scientific fields of astrophysics, space weather, earth science, and ancient text. Seeing the need to venture beyond the Sun-Earth connection, in 2016 Battros advanced his studies which incorporates our galaxy Milky Way - and its seemingly rhythmic cycles directly connected to our Solar System, Sun, and Earth driven by the source of charged particles such as galactic cosmic rays, gamma rays, and solar rays. Now, "Science Of Cycles" is the vehicle which brings the latest cutting-edge discoveries confirming his published Equation.