New Brown Dwarfs: The Ultimate Failed Stars
Danika Wilkinson
at 01:17 PM 12 Oct 2020
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Dwarfs us: One of the new brown dwarfs is six times larger than Jupiter
IMAGE BY Jon Lomberg
Astronomy // 

Over two dozen new free-floating brown dwarfs have been discovered in two young star clusters, Science Daily reports. A University of Toronto-led research team made the discovery - and found an unusual surplus of ‘failed stars’ in each constellation.

Brown dwarfs, often described as ‘failed stars’, sit on the boundary between stars and planets. They shine brightly like the sun in early formation, but soon cool and adapt planet-like characteristics; such as an atmosphere. 

All other theories aside, brown dwarfs are proof that the universe can form planetary objects as it likes, whenever it likes. In fact, one of the failed stars is six times the size of our largest planet, Jupiter.

"Our findings suggest once again that objects not much bigger than Jupiter could form the same way as stars do. In other words, nature appears to have more than one trick up its sleeve for producing planetary mass objects," says Professor Ray Jayawardhana, Canada Research Chair in Observational Astrophysics at the University of Toronto and leader of the international team that made the discovery.

The findings come from observations using the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii and the simply named Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile during the Substellar Objects in Nearby Young Clusters (SONYC) survey.The two star clusters are known as NGC 1333 and Rho Ophiuchi, and were observed using both optical and infrared wavelengths from the Subaru telescope. Scientists then used the VLT to take a spectra and formally identify the brown dwarfs, known by their very red colours. NGC 1333 is a part of the Perseus constellation and Rho Ophiuchi sits south of the constellation Ophiuchus. 

But what’s the possibility of life inhabiting one of these scientific oddballs? Well, earlier this year scientists found the lowest-temperature brown dwarfs in the known universe - at a balmy 25º Celsius. The stars start off extremely hot, like our sun, emitting light in their early formation. But as time goes by, they gradually cool. The coolest brown dwarfs, known as Y dwarfs, are therefore the oldest - they’ve had the longest time to cool. 

And good news - the closest brown dwarf to Earth, also the seventh-closest object to our solar system, is only nine light years away. At the speed of modern spaceships, that’s a quick 50,000 year duck down to the shops.

[Science Daily]


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