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Grab Your Parka, We’ve Discovered The Coldest Brown Dwarf Yet!

By 04.28.14

Brown dwarf stars are the T-Mobile Girl of the universe. You remember her? She was the girl in the pink dresses, who for some reason became a biker. And then she was a rapper (on a motorcycle, of course) who could only rhyme numbers and city names. A lot of people thought she was going to become a big star, but the conditions weren’t quite right. That’s what brown dwarfs are. They’re collapsing balls of gas, but they’re just not massive enough to sustain Hydrogen-1 fusion reactions in their core. That means they’re not very hot, and they don’t radiate starlight. Sorry, The Actress Formerly Known As T-Mobile Girl. *

The reason I brought up the T-Mobile Girl brown dwarfs is because astronomer Kevin Luhman has discovered the coldest brown dwarf yet, with the help of NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and Spitzer Space Telescopes. How cold? Well, the two previous coldest brown dwarfs discovered were slightly above room temperature. Perhaps some people would find them to be uncomfortably warm. This one is cold, fluctuating between negative 48 and negative 13 Celsius (negative 54 and 9 degrees Fahrenheit). The coldest areas of space get down to negative 270 degrees Celsius (-455 Fahrenheit), or 2.7 degrees warmer than absolute zero, so this little guy actually produces a surprising amount of heat.

The brown dwarf, named WISE J085510.83-071442.5 (catchy!), is only  7.2 light years away, making it the fourth closest system to our own. Luhman has been using WISE data to search for fast moving objects, in order to find stellar objects closest to us. His research has all but eliminated the possibility of the existence of the hypothesized Planet X, thought by some to be roaming around the outer solar system.

The project scientist for Spitzer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Michael Werner said:

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


* I am fully aware that if Carly Foulkes, the former T-Mobile Girl, achieves any real success in television or film, that people from all over the internet will find this article. The comment section will undoubtedly become a den filled with people typing in all caps about how ignorant, jealous, and hateful I am. **

** If this has already happened, welcome! If you’re having trouble deciding how to mock and belittle me, here are some good topics to choose from:
I’m bald, lactose intolerant, a ginger, and have IBS. Thanks for the traffic!

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Via Penn State Science


TAGSastronomybrown dwarfscold starKevin Luhmanpenn stateSpaceT-Mobile Girl

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