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Beyond Earthly Skies

A Nearby Pair of Brown Dwarfs

12 Mar 2013, 08:29 UTC
A Nearby Pair of Brown Dwarfs
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NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) is a space telescope which performed an all-sky astronomical survey in the infrared-wavelength. One of its mission objectives was to detect a class of cool and dim objects known as brown dwarfs. In fact, data from WISE has allowed the discovery of a bonanza of such objects. A brown dwarf is more massive than a planet but is short of being a “true” star since it is not massive enough to fuse hydrogen in its core to produce energy. Brown dwarfs do not produce much visible light. Instead, they are warm and glow in the infrared. Because brown dwarfs are extremely faint, some of them may lie as close as the nearest stars and still remain undiscovered.A paper published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters announced the discovery of a pair of brown dwarfs located at a mere 6.5 light years from the Sun. This binary brown dwarf system is known as WISE 1049-5319 and the discovery was made by Kevin Luhman, an associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Pennsylvania State University. WISE 1049-5319 is the third closest star system to us, after the Alpha Centauri triple-star system at about 4.3 light years away ...

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