Two new brown dwarf Solar neighbors discovered

Jul 15, 2011
False-colour images of the two brown dwarf discoveries WISE J0254+0223 and WISE J1741+2553. Credit: AIP, NASA/IPAC Infrared Science Archive

Scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) have discovered two new brown dwarfs at estimated distances of only 15 and 18 light years from the Sun. For comparison: The next star to the Sun, Proxima, is located slightly more than 4 light years from the Sun, whereas the nearest known brown dwarfs, epsilon Indi Ba and Bb, also found at the AIP several years ago, are about 12 light years away.

Ralf-Dieter Scholz and his AIP colleagues used the recently published data of the WISE (Wide-field Explorer) for their discovery. The two new Solar neighbors, named WISE J0254+0223 and WISE J1741+2553, attracted attention by the extreme contrast between their strong brightness in the infrared and their almost invisible appearance in . In addition, both objects move at comparably large speed across the sky (proper motion), i.e. their positions are remarkably different with respect to earlier observations. This was a first hint of their vicinity that was confirmed by the comparison of their colours and magnitudes with those of other similar objects. The brighter of the two objects was visible on the night sky at the time of its discovery so that the AIP team could use the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona/USA for determining the spectral type and distance more accurately. Both objects belong to the coolest representatives of T-type , just at the boundary to the predicted but not yet well-defined class of Y-type ultracool brown dwarfs.
 
Brown dwarfs are also called failed stars, since during their formation, they could not accumulate enough mass to ignite the natural nuclear fusion reactor in their core, that is the long-living energy source of stars. Therefore, their brightness decreases strongly with time. Presumably, most brown dwarfs have reached surface temperatures below the “oven temperature” of about 500 Kelvin (about 230 degrees Celsius), may be even as cool as the temperature at the surface of the Earth. The search for these elusive neighbours of the Sun is currently in full swing. It cannot be excluded that ultracool brown dwarfs surround us in similar high numbers as stars and that our nearest known neighbor will soon be a brown dwarf rather than Proxima Centauri.

Explore further: Image: Chandra's view of the Tycho Supernova remnant

More information: arxiv.org/abs/1105.4059

Provided by Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics

4.8 /5 (16 votes)

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LKD
5 / 5 (2) Jul 15, 2011
"It cannot be excluded that ultracool brown dwarfs surround us in similar high numbers as stars and that our nearest known neighbor will soon be a brown dwarf rather than Proxima Centauri."

Oh no, planet Nibiru references.
Birger
5 / 5 (2) Jul 15, 2011
"Oh no, planet Nibiru references"

As long as it is not the planet Kolob, where Mormons claim their god lives... :-)

Jokes aside, if interstellar space is full of sub-stellar objects like this, their attendant planetary systems will provide nice stepping-stones for robotic missions sent by our descendants.
I would love it if we find a brown dwarf system roughly equidistant with Sol, Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani, say 6-7 light years from each system. It would mean interstellar space could be reached through an "island-hopping" strategy.
wiyosaya
5 / 5 (3) Jul 15, 2011
Nit picking LOL:

Would the title not more accurately reflect the situation if it read

"Two brown dwarf Solar neighbors newly discovered"

The brown dwarfs certainly are not "new" as in they just formed with their observation, or are they?? LOL
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Jul 15, 2011
Jokes aside, if interstellar space is full of sub-stellar objects like this, their attendant planetary systems will provide nice stepping-stones for robotic missions sent by our descendants.


Don't bet on there being too much of a planetary system surrounding a brown dwarf. The upper limit for a brown dwarf mass is about 70-80 times the mass of Jupiter (The mas of Jupiter is about 1/1000th the mass of the sun). If the mass of these objects follows any kind of normal distributions then most will be substantially lighter than that upper limit and will not have any attendand plantes (possibly a few moons).
Shootist
5 / 5 (3) Jul 15, 2011
Jokes aside, if interstellar space is full of sub-stellar objects like this, their attendant planetary systems will provide nice stepping-stones for robotic missions sent by our descendants.


Don't bet on there being too much of a planetary system surrounding a brown dwarf. The upper limit for a brown dwarf mass is about 70-80 times the mass of Jupiter (The mas of Jupiter is about 1/1000th the mass of the sun). If the mass of these objects follows any kind of normal distributions then most will be substantially lighter than that upper limit and will not have any attendand plantes (possibly a few moons).


Planets have been discovered orbiting Browns. Besides, Jupiter, and Saturn, have a planetary system in their own right, both having planet sized Moons..
Reaper6971
2.4 / 5 (7) Jul 15, 2011
If there are, in fact, brown dwarfs we cannot see, could that be at least a partial explanation for dark matter?
yyz
5 / 5 (3) Jul 15, 2011
"....if interstellar space is full of sub-stellar objects like this, their attendant planetary systems will provide nice stepping-stones for robotic missions sent by our descendants."

And if not planets (and-or moons, asteroids and comets), why not hop objects that inhabit a star's Oort cloud, which may be rich in icy organic materials or other potentially useful compounds? Our Sun's hypothesized Oort cloud is estimated to extend out nearly a light year: http://en.wikiped...position
LKD
4 / 5 (2) Jul 15, 2011
If there are, in fact, brown dwarfs we cannot see, could that be at least a partial explanation for dark matter?


Sadly, even if you double its mass, matter won't account for much of anything involved in maintaining galactic unity. The answer is not within gravity.
that_guy
4.4 / 5 (5) Jul 15, 2011
If there are, in fact, brown dwarfs we cannot see, could that be at least a partial explanation for dark matter?


Sadly, even if you double its mass, matter won't account for much of anything involved in maintaining galactic unity. The answer is not within gravity.


LKD is right about brown dwarfs vs dark matter. Current theory and observation don't make a strong argument for brown dwarfs making a significant portion of dark matter.

However, that doesn't mean that at some point we will settle on something totally different than current dark matter theory, or that the universe comes up with a far more conventional answer to that question that we may have overlooked. You could say that we are in the victorian ages for theory beyond the galactic rim, and there will be plenty of theories that are accepted now, that will sound completely crazy a century from now.
Parsec
3.6 / 5 (5) Jul 15, 2011
Current theory predicts that dark matter is not made up of baryons. That is, it can't be made up of ordinary matter.

That doesn't mean that current theory is right, although it probably is.
omatumr
2.1 / 5 (9) Jul 15, 2011
Thanks for this intriguing story!

Oliver
jsdarkdestruction
2 / 5 (1) Jul 15, 2011
Interesting find, the title was a bit misleading though.
oliver-
OMG! A post w/o neutron repulsion or neutron star fragmenting making stars nonsense spam! I'd say good job and im proud of you....but i know what you did to your children oliver and it makes it hard to have any sort of respect for you.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (2) Jul 15, 2011
This research is defunded on Aug 2 2011.
Deesky
5 / 5 (1) Jul 16, 2011
This research is defunded on Aug 2 2011.

Can't wait till 2-Aug. Hopefully Vendicar will stop spamming every thread with these inane (ungrammatical) posts.
that_guy
not rated yet Jul 16, 2011
Current theory predicts that dark matter is not made up of baryons. That is, it can't be made up of ordinary matter.

That doesn't mean that current theory is right, although it probably is.


based on the number of untied and unexplained portions of current theory, the difficulty of accurately extrapolating it into other areas and the relatively slow progress it's making, we can basically guarantee that major portions of current theory are either wrong or missing.

I'm not saying that the current alternative theories are right, but even the scientific community knows that what they think here is just a best guess. It's called dark matter and dark energy for just this reason.

Your statement is asonine parsec.
Deesky
4.4 / 5 (5) Jul 16, 2011
even the scientific community knows that what they think here is just a best guess. It's called dark matter and dark energy for just this reason.

They're not called that because they're 'guesses'. The two phenomena are real enough and observable through varying different methods, so they are not guesses.

What is unknown is the exact nature of the beast(s). However, they are constrained by observation and theory (especially for DM), so to loosely call them mere guesses is not accurate.