Extrasolar Giant Planets and Brown Dwarfs

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Science  06 Aug 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5429, pp. 847-848
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5429.847

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Until just five years ago, a big gap yawned between the mass of the giant planets known only in our solar system, and that of the known small stars in the surrounding universe. This picture has changed dramatically, as recent surveys are turning up scores of giant planets and small stars called brown dwarfs. Brown dwarfs have diameters of about one-tenth of the sun, and are relatively cool. Many of their detailed properties remain the subject of intense investigation. Differentiating between giant planets and brown dwarfs also turns out to be difficult, as they may overlap in size and properties. These objects are therefore right at the boundary between planetary science and astronomy, and are receiving much attention.