NASA’s Kepler telescope has had quite a bounty of discoveries since March when it first launched, including a new one that’s making news due to its high levels of strangeness. The Kepler telescope has now discovered two bodies far hot to be planets, yet too small to be stars. They’re bigger and hotter than the planets we have seen so far, but even the smallest star is several times larger than either of the objects.
Jon Morse, head astrophysicist for NASA was quoted as saying, “The universe keeps making things stranger than we can imagine in our imagination.” When the American Astronomical society held its first meeting of 2010, the first details of these mysterious objects were released to the public. The result? Interest into exactly what they could be. “If they’re not stars and they’re not planets,” said Walt Goldman, an astrophysics enthusiast and astronomer, “then I have no idea what they are. They have to be one or another unless this is something entirely new. The first thing that comes to mind is something created by an intelligent entity of some sort.”
In the meantime before the devices are classified, they’ve been dubbed “hot companions.” One measurement of the objects’ estimated surface temperature was 26,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s enough to make water explosive almost immediately. There are several suggestions of what these objects could be, and any of them makes this discovery inescapably a significant one in the field of astronomy. One suggests that the “hot companions” may be newly formed planets, no more than 200 million years old that have been freshly created and hotter than anyone suspected a newborn planet would be. If these objects do indeed turn out to be planets, then it will be significant to the astrophysical community in learning how planets are formed, and the condition they are in early on in their development. The second theory holds that these objects must be white dwarf stars that, as they die, are diminishing in size, brightness, and hotness. The white dwarf star theory is likewise important because it will shed some light on the circumstances behind the death of a white dwarf. Of course a third fringe theory is that they may be objects designed as some form of space platform that gives off a great deal of energy deep in space in order to perform some task, though what that task could be hasn’t been elaborated on.
Regardless, it seems Hamlet’s quote, “There are more things in heaven and on Earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy,” rings just as true today as we implement more devices to capture and document the mysteries of the stars and yet we are bound from solving them before a cavalcade of new mysteries gallops in disrupting our entire universal philosophy and feeling of understanding and power. Only on Earth, does it seem have we even begun to scratch the surface of what life is, and what mysteries there truly are. In the mean time, these “hot companions” will be in good company to myriad other enigmas floating about amongst the stars.