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23 Librae is located about 83.7 light-years from Sol. It lies in the southeast corner (15:13:28.7-25:18:33.6, ICRS 2000.0) of Constellation Libra, the Scales -- southeast of Rho Librae and Zubenelgenubi ("Southern Claw" of the nearby Scorpion, or Alpha(1,2) Librae 3), and southwest of Pi Scorpii. The star is not visible to most Humans without binoculars. In 1999, astronomers announced the discovery of a 1.6 Jupiter-mass planet around this Sun-like star (Vogt et al, 2000 -- details below). On December 14, 2009, a team of astronomers announced the discovery of another Jupiter-like planet (0.82 Jupiter-mass) with average orbital distance of 5.8 AUs with a period of 14 years around 23 Librae (AAO press release; and Jones et al, 2009 -- more below). (See an animation of the planetary and potentially habitable zone orbits of this system, with a table of basic orbital and physical characteristics.)
23 Librae is a yellow-orange main sequence dwarf star of spectral and luminosity type G4-5 V. It has about 1.05 to 1.10 times the mass of Sol (Holmberg et al, 2007; Takeda et al, 2007a; and Yoichi Takeda, 2007b), 1.25 times its diameter (van Belle and von Braun, 2009, page 16 for HD 134987), and 1.5 times its theoretical bolometric luminosity (NASA Star and Exoplanet Database, based on Kenneth R. Lang, 1980). The star is 1.6 to 1.9 times more enriched than Sol with elements heavier than hydrogen ("metallicity"), based on its abundance of iron (Holmberg et al, 2007; Takeda et al, 2007a; and HD 134987 at exoplanets.org). 23 Librae is older than Sol, at close to 8.1 to 11.1 billion years ((Holmberg et al, 2007; Takeda et al, 2007a; and Saffe et al, 2008). Useful catalogue numbers and designations for the star include: 23 Lib, HR 5657, Gl 579.4, Hip 74500, HD 134987, CD-24 11928, CP-24 5475, SAO 18327, and LTT 6066.
In 1999, a team of astronomers (Steven S. Vogt, Geoffrey W. Marcy, R. Paul Butler, and Kevin Apps) announced the discovery of a Jupiter-class planet around 23 Librae using radial-velocity analysis (Vogt et al, 2000). Planet b has at least 1.59 times Jupiter's mass. It moves around 23 Librae at an average distance of only 0.81 AUs -- between the orbital distances of Venus and Earth in the Solar System -- in an elliptical orbit (e=0.23) (Jones et al, 2009; see also the web page for HD 134987 at exoplanets.org). This orbit would take almost three-quarters of a year (258 days) to complete. While subsequent astrometric analysis, however, suggested that planet b may have as much as 34 times the mass of Jupiter with an inclination of 2.7° from Earth's line of sight, this appears to have been refuted with further radial-velocity analysis (Jones et al, 2009; and Han et al, 2000).
to Saturn and Titan, NASA
Planetary candidates "b" and "c"
appear to be gas giants with at
least 1.6 and 0.8 times the mass
of Jupiter (shown here with Europa),
On December 14, 2009, a team of astronomers (Hugh R. A. Jones, R. Paul Butler, C. G. Tinney, Simon O’Toole, Robert A. Wittenmyer, Gregory W. Henry, Stefano Meschiari, Steven S. Vogt; Eugenio J. Rivera, Gregory Laughlin, Brad D. Carter, Jeremy Bailey, and James S. Jenkins) announced the discovery of another Jupiter-like planet "c" of at least 0.82 Jupiter-mass) in a orbit around 23 Librae with a period of 14 years (AAO press release; and Jones et al, 2009). Planet c's orbit takes around 5,000 days to complete at a semi-axis of 5.8 AUs and is relatively circular (e~0.12). Its orbit and mass are close to the prototypical Jupiter in the Solar System.
The orbit of an Earth-like planet (with liquid water) around 23 Librae may be centered around 1.2 AU -- between the orbital distances of Earth and Mars in the Solar System -- with an orbital period of about 1.3 years (486 days). However, the presence of planet b at its orbital distance of around 0.8 AU may have disrupted the development of an Earth-type planet in the water zone. Astronomers would find it very difficult to detect an Earth-sized planet of this star using present methods. (See an animation of the planetary and potentially habitable zone orbits of this system, with a table of basic orbital and physical characteristics.)
Brown Dwarfs or Planets?
When brown dwarfs were just a theoretical concern, astronomers differentiated those hypothetical objects from planets by how they were formed. If a substellar object was formed the way a star does, from a collapsing cloud of interstellar gas and dust, then it would be called a brown dwarf. If it was formed by gradually accumulating gas and dust inside a star's circumstellar disk, however, it was called a planet. Once the first brown dwarf candidates were actually found, however, astronomers realized that it was actually quite difficult to definitely rule on the validity of competing hypotheses about how a substellar object was actually formed without having been there. This problem is particularly difficult to resolve in the case of stellar companions, objects that orbit a star -- or two.
University of California at Berkeley astronomer Ben R. Oppenheimer, who helped to discover a nearby brown dwarf, Gliese 229 b, is part of a growing group that would like to define a brown dwarf as an substellar object with the mass of 13 to 80 (or so) Jupiters. While these objects cannot fuse "ordinary" hydrogen (a single proton nucleus) like stars, they have enough mass to briefly fuse deuterium (hydrogen with a proton-neutron nucleus). Therefore, stellar companions with less than 13 Jupiter masses would be defined as planets.
Other prominent astronomers, such as San Francisco State University astronomer Geoffrey W. Marcy who also has helped to discover many extrasolar planets, note that there may in fact be many different physical processes that lead to the formation of planets. Similarly, there may also be many different processes that lead to the creation of brown dwarfs, and some of these may also lead to planets. Hence, more observational data may be needed before astronomers can determine how to make justifiable distinctions in the classification of such substellar objects.
The following table includes all star systems known to be located within 10 light-years (ly), plus more bright stars within 10 to 20 ly, of 23 Librae.
|Star System||Spectra &|
|CD-26 10870||K3-4 V||6.0|
|L 624-20||M3.5 V||9.1|
|CD-26 10849||G8-K0 V||9.8|
|* plus bright stars *||. . .|
|BD-15 4042 A||K0-1 V-IV||16|
|BD-15 4042 B||K0-2 V-IV||19|
Alpha2 Librae A
Alpha2 Librae B
|BD-15 3924||G6 V||18|
|54 Hydrae 3||F0-2 V-III |
Try Professor Jim Kaler's Stars site for other information about 23 Librae at the University of Illinois' Department of Astronomy. John Whatmough developed illustrated web pages on this system in Extrasolar Visions.
Up-to-date technical summaries on these stars can be found at: Jean Schneiders's Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia; the Astronomiches Rechen-Institut at Heidelberg's ARICNS; and the NASA Star and Exoplanet Database. Additional information may be available at Roger Wilcox's Internet Stellar Database.
The ancient Greeks grouped the stars of Libra with Constellation Scorpius, the Scorpion. To the later Romans, however, Constellation Libra represent "the Scales of Justice" held by Julius Caesar. For later peoples, these scales became associated with Virgo as the Goddess of Justice, proving that political power is indeed fleeting. . For more information about the stars and objects in this constellation, go to Christine Kronberg's Libra. For an illustration, see David Haworth's Libra.
For more information about stars including spectral and luminosity class codes, go to ChView's webpage on The Stars of the Milky Way.
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