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A Cold Brown Dwarf in the Sun’s Neighbourhood

26 Apr 2014, 12:10 UTC
A Cold Brown Dwarf in the Sun’s Neighbourhood
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By analysing data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and Spitzer Space Telescope, Kevin Luhman, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University recently announced the discovery of the coldest brown dwarf found to date in a paper published on 21 April 2014 in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. The brown dwarf, identified as WISE J085510.83-071442.5 (hereafter WISE J0855-0714) is reported to have an estimated temperature of 225 to 260 K (-48 to -13 °C) and a mass of 3 to 10 times Jupiter’s mass. This makes WISE J0855-0714 about as chilly as summer at the South Pole. Before this discovery, the coldest known brown dwarfs, also found by WISE and Spitzer, were about room temperature.Figure 1: Artist’s impression of a cold brown dwarf. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.Brown dwarfs are objects that form as stars do, but they lack the mass to sustain nuclear fusion in their cores to shine like stars. They cool with time and emit nearly all of their energy in the form of infrared radiation. WISE was able to detect WISE J0855-0714 because it surveyed the entire sky in infrared twice, with some areas up to three times. The area of sky where WISE J0855-0714 is situated was imaged ...

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