If you’re one of those people who believe in alien life and are just waiting until the day we make first contact, then chances are the discovery of a new planet gets you quite excited. After all, our universe is vast and so much of it is undiscovered.
Finding a new planet is a big deal, especially when it turns out to be massive!
Earth, as a planet, is on the relatively small side of things. Sure, Mercury, Venus, and even Mars are smaller, but compare Earth to the giants of our solar system, Saturn and Jupiter. Jupiter has a diameter that is more than 11 times that of Earth!
Now astronomers have spotted a new planet that’s bigger than Jupiter. Much bigger. The new planet, which was discovered using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, is named OGLE-2016-BLG-1190Lb. It is calculated to be over 13 times the mass of our solar system’s largest planet.
This new planet is so huge that scientists are wondering if it is even a planet at all!
Now, before you go getting all excited that we’ve found the Death Star or some other intergalactic fictional space station, know that there may be a more logical explanation for the potential planet’s size.
It is possible that the new discovery is actually a brown dwarf. Brown dwarfs are sometimes called failed stars, and, like a true star, generate heat. However, brown dwarfs are much weaker than main sequence stars, and are unable to produce nuclear fusion like our sun does.