Neil deGrasse Tyson may have helped DC Comics in the search for Superman’s homeworld Krypton, but one can’t help but wonder what kind of superhero would live on a newly discovered “super-Jupiter” orbiting the star Kappa Andromedae.
As announced by scientists using the High Contrast Instrument for the Subaru Next Generation Adaptive Optics (HiCIAO) and the Infrared Camera and Spectrograph (IRCS) mounted on the Japanese Subaru Telescope atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii, this newly discovered exoplanet is likely a little exotic. Weighing-in at a whopping 13 Jupiter masses, there is some ambiguity as to whether it’s a massive planet or a small, failed star — although spectroscopic analysis of the light it generates suggests it is composed of similar gases as other gas giant exoplanets orbiting other stars.
Failed stars, commonly known as brown dwarfs, are the runts of the stellar litter. They may be big, but they’re not big enough to sustain nuclear fusion in their cores. A star can’t shine without fusion, so these celestial oddballs are often considered to be the “bridge” between planets and stars.