An exoplanet that was once like a star

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Astronomers, using WISE data, have discovered a strange exoplanet that is now as cool as a rocky planet, but was once as hot as a red dwarf star.

The current temperature of the object is 100-150 degrees Celsius, intermediate between that of the Earth and Venus. But the object shows evidence of a possible ancient origin, implying that a large change in temperature has taken place. In the past this object would have been as hot as a star for many millions of years.

Called WISE J0304-2705, the object is a member of the recently established “Y dwarf” class – the coolest stellar temperature class yet defined, added to the end of the sequence OBAFGKMLT (for historical reasons this is not in alphabetical order but follows a decline in temperature from O to T). Although its temperature is not far off that of our own world, the object is not like the rocky Earth-like planets and instead is a giant ball of gas like Jupiter.

As cool as this discovery is (no pun intended), I am most enlightened by the information in the second paragraph above. I had not realized that astronomers had added L, T, and Y classes to the low temperature end of their stellar classification system. For those new to astronomy, you remember the sequence of the first seven classes with the phrase “O Be A Fine Girl Kiss Me”. I wonder what how we can amend this phrase to include the L, T, Y, classes?


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