Astronomers have discovered a mysterious space object that they have yet to determine whether it’s a massive planet or a failed star. They’ve dubbed the object OGLE-2016-BLG-1190Lb, and they estimate its size about 13.4 times the size of Jupiter.

mysterious space object
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Mysterious space object found near the galaxy’s center

The international team of scientists who discovered the mysterious space object published their findings in a paper that can be found in the Cornell University Library. They discovered the object as part of the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment collaboration while examining and analyzing data that was collected by NASA’s Spitzer telescope, which has been in orbit since 2003. The scientists also said that the mysterious space object travels around its parent start about one time for every three Earth years.

They used micro-lensing to spot the mysterious space object about 22,000 light years away from Earth. Micro-lensing is a technique that measures distortions in light whenever one start passes in front of another, and the scientists believe the object they found is the first “Spitzer micro-lensing planet in the Galactic bulge/bar.” The Galactic bulge is at the center of our galaxy.

Is it a planet or a brown dwarf?

The space object was discovered on the edge of what astronomers call the Brown Dwarf desert, so its location is one reason astronomers are unsure about the object’s classification.

The scientists also said in their report that the mysterious space object is so massive that they’re not sure if it’s a failed star or a giant planet. They said the mass of the object puts it right on the line for classification between planets and brown dwarf stars. Astronomers often use the terms “brown dwarf” and “failed star” interchangeably.

One thing that makes a space object a planet is how it was formed; brown dwarf stars have qualities of both planets and stars. Stars are also large enough to sustain fusion, while planets are too small to do this. Brown dwarfs have a mass that’s 13 to 90 times Jupiter’s mass, while the mysterious space object the team of researchers wrote about has a mass that’s 13.4 times the size of Jupiter’s mass.