“Too darn hot.” The title of a Cole Porter tune sums up why an astronomer has now retracted her 1998 claim that the faint object her team imaged with the Hubble Space Telescope is most likely a planet. Her original announcement made front-page headlines (SN: 6/6/98, p. 357) since her observations appeared to be the first direct detection of a planet outside the solar system.
The retraction comes as no surprise. Science News reported last June that the astronomer, Sue Terebey of the Extrasolar Research Corp. in Pasadena, Calif., presented new evidence at two meetings suggesting that the object, dubbed TMR-1C, was probably too warm to be a planet (SN: 6/26/99, p. 404: http://www.sciencenews.org/sn_arc99/6_26_99/fob1.htm).
At the time, Terebey said she would not speak to reporters until she had further analyzed spectra of TMR-1C and prepared a research article on that analysis. Now, she has done both.
The spectra reveal that TMR-1C has a temperature greater than 2,700 kelvins, much hotter than any planet.
“The new data do not lend weight to the protoplanet interpretation, and the results remain consistent with the explanation that TMR-1C may be a background star,” Terebey and her colleagues said in a statement posted on the Internet.