Astronomers find 95 brown dwarfs near the Solar System

Hyperaxion Aug 19, 2020

Brown dwarfs are lighter than stars and more massive than planets. The newly discovered brown dwarfs are among the coldest ever found.

Astronomers and a team of volunteers from Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, a citizen science project funded by NASA, discovered 95 brown dwarfs near the Solar System.

The study will be published in the August 20, 2020 issue of the Astrophysical Journal and is available on the preprint repository

Astronomers find 95 brown dwarfs near the Solar System
(Credit: NOIRLab / NSF / AURA / P. Marenfeld).

The discovery was made using the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, data from NASA’s WISE satellite, files from the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory and the Kitt Peak National Observatory.

Astronomers were helped by Backyard Worlds, a worldwide network of more than 100,000 citizen scientists voluntarily willing to contribute to the advancement of scientific research.

After selecting a few collaborators, they inspected trillions of pixels of images captured by telescopes to identify the almost imperceptible movements of brown dwarfs and planets near the Solar System.

Despite technological advances in image recognition, there is still nothing better than the human eye to identify these objects.

Brown dwarfs are intermediate objects: more massive than planets and lighter than stars. According to experts, some brown dwarfs are extremely cold when compared to stars, and a few of them may even have temperatures similar to Earth’s – which would be enough to harbor water clouds.

“This collection of cool brown dwarfs also allows us to accurately estimate the number of free-floating worlds roaming interstellar space near the Sun,” said Aaron Meisner, co-author of the article and a researcher at the National Science Foundation.

Discovering and characterizing astronomical objects close to the Sun is essential to understand our place in the universe.

The new discovery by Backyard Worlds fills a gap in the knowledge of low-temperature brown dwarfs.

Related topics:

Brown dwarfs Solar System Stars


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