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Beyond Earthly Skies

A Pair of Very Young Brown Dwarfs

14 Oct 2013, 10:00 UTC
A Pair of Very Young Brown Dwarfs ESO/L. Calçada
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Brown dwarfs bridge the gap between the least massive stars (~0.075 Sun’s mass) and the most massive planets (~0.013 Sun’s mass). Although they form as stars do and resemble gas giant planets, a brown dwarf is neither star nor planet. In 2006, a team of astronomers announced the discovery of a pair of young brown dwarfs located ~1400 light years away in the Orion Nebula. The pair is identified as 2MASS J05352184-0546085 and it is the first example of an eclipsing binary system comprising two brown dwarfs. Here, the two brown dwarfs mutually eclipse each other as they orbit around their common centre of mass.Figure 1: This artist’s impression shows an eclipsing binary system. As the two components orbit each other, they pass in front of one another and create periodic dips in their combined brightness. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada.The higher mass ‘primary’ component has a mass of 0.054 ± 0.005 solar mass and a size of 0.669 ± 0.034 solar radii, while the lower mass ‘secondary’ component has a mass of 0.034 ± 0.003 solar mass and a size of 0.511 ± 0.026 solar radii. Since the Orion Nebula star cluster is extremely young, 2MASS J05352184-0546085 is believed to be ...

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