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Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Sun's Neighbor Is The Coldest Brown Dwarf Star Ever Found

Astronomers have discovered one of the sun's neighbors - a brown dwarf star which is as frosty as Earth's Arctic.

Penn State University astronomers believe the brown dwarf is the coldest of its kind, writes Science World Report.

The star, named WISE J085510.83-071442, was found 7.2 light years away making it the fourth closest neighbor to our Sun.

It was discovered using NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and Spitzer Space Telescopes.

"It is very exciting to discover a new neighbor of our solar system that is so close," said Kevin Luhman, an associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State and a researcher in the Penn State Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds.

"In addition, its extreme temperature should tell us a lot about the atmospheres of planets, which often have similarly cold temperatures."

The recent find, while exciting, is not ideal for human space travel in the distant future.

Brown dwarfs are known to kickstart their lives as stars in the form of withering bundles of gas. But these brown dwarfs do not have the mass to burn the nuclear fuel and emit starlight. 

The newly discovered star has a frosty temperature that varies between -48 and -13 degree Celsius. 

Other brown dwarfs discovered using WISE had temperatures closer to room temperature.

"Any planets that might orbit it would be much too cold to support life as we know it" Luhman told Science World Report.

"This object appeared to move really fast in the WISE data. That told us it was something special. The closer a body, the more it appears to move in images taken months apart. Airplanes are a good example of this effect: a closer, low-flying plane will appear to fly overhead more rapidly than a high-flying one."

The researchers were able to spot the star as WISE surveyed the complete sky twice in infrared light. 

The thermal glow of the cold brown dwarfs is seen only in infrared light.

Astronomers first noticed the intense motion of the new brown dwarf star in 2013. It is estimated to be 3-10 times the mass of Jupiter. 

The astronomers have confirmed the star to be a brown dwarf and not a planet after studying images of the star.

"It is remarkable that even after many decades of studying the sky, we still do not have a complete inventory of the Sun's nearest neighbors," Michael Werner, project scientist for Spitzer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), told Science World Report.

"This exciting new result demonstrates the power of exploring the universe using new tools, such as the infrared eyes of WISE and Spitzer."

Source: http://www.designntrend.com/

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