Kepler provides insights into unusual dwarf star

Jun 03, 2013

(Phys.org) —Astronomer John Gizis of the University of Delaware, working with data obtained by the Kepler mission, is studying a highly unusual dwarf star and its powerful flares that may hold clues to the likelihood of life on other planets as well as to the behavior of our Sun.

Known as an L dwarf, this coolest type of star is about 53 light-years from Earth. Gizis, who discovered it two years ago using a ground-based telescope, has now conducted additional research using Kepler observations over the past two years. About once a week, the star flares, heating up from its usual 3,700 degrees Fahrenheit to about 14,000 degrees in just three minutes, and then slowly cooling again.

"We saw these white-light flares, which were a first for such a cool star," Gizis said. "We hope we can use what we're learning to understand what's happening with our Sun—how flares work there and how magnetic fields in stars behave."

In addition, he said, the powerful may indicate that conditions for near such activity are more dangerous than previously thought.

Kepler, the subtitled "A Search for ," launched in 2009 and orbited the Sun, focusing on a single, large section of sky. With recent equipment malfunctions, scientists believe the mission has now come to an end. Gizis expects to spend about six more months analyzing data that Kepler has already gathered and to then continue studying the L dwarf with different equipment.

"What was really marvelous about Kepler is that it was able to watch about 160,000 stars for four years without a break, which would have been impossible otherwise," Gizis said. "And now that we know what we're looking for, we can continue to observe the L dwarf with other telescopes."

The star, designated W1906+40, is smaller than Jupiter, cooler than the Sun, and "many billions" of years old, possibly a similar age as the 4.5-billion-year-old Sun, he said. It's closer to Earth than the other stars Kepler studied, but because it's dimmer, it was more difficult to find.

"I'm an observational astronomer," Gizis said. "I like discovering new stars."

He is presenting his discoveries June 3 at the 222nd meeting of the American Astronomical Society, and the results are to be published in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal. The research was funded by a grant.

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User comments : 10

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Neinsense99
3.5 / 5 (13) Jun 03, 2013
A great tool, still giving insights. Well, done.
Jonseer
1 / 5 (6) Jun 04, 2013
"I'm an observational astronomer," Gizis said. "I like discovering new stars." translation - I have a job that to me is the same as getting to play 24/7 and get paid to do it all in the name of research and education.
Silverhill
5 / 5 (4) Jun 04, 2013
More people should be able to enjoy their work as much. If you're that envious, Jonseer, consider changing careers rather than unjustifiably dissing someone else's.
Mr Som-o
5 / 5 (1) Jun 04, 2013
I see Jonseer's comment as an observation of envy and not one of "dissing".
ROBTHEGOB
1 / 5 (1) Jun 04, 2013
Talk about a hot flash!
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (6) Jun 04, 2013
translation - I have a job that to me is the same as getting to play 24/7 and get paid to do it all in the name of research and education.

And what exactly is wrong with enjoying one's work? Don't you?
Silverhill
not rated yet Jun 04, 2013
I may have mis-reacted there; apologies if so. Jonseer's comment could be taken as an *admiring* form of envy, instead of a spiteful form. Still envy, though -- an envy that many people could have, if they did not see their work as something that could also be enjoyed.
katesisco
1 / 5 (4) Jun 13, 2013
Re the star: thinking about flaring I wonder if we are going to find more and more cool stars flaring. If you consider that pulsars are 10 and stars that do not flare are 0 then Sol must be about 3? Sol 'flares' every 11 years, is that not correct?
Q-Star
1 / 5 (3) Jun 13, 2013
Re the star: thinking about flaring I wonder if we are going to find more and more cool stars flaring. If you consider that pulsars are 10 and stars that do not flare are 0 then Sol must be about 3? Sol 'flares' every 11 years, is that not correct?


Ya are correct,,,, "that is not correct". Where ya get most "profoundly scientific" insights from?
Fleetfoot
not rated yet Jun 13, 2013
Re the star: thinking about flaring I wonder if we are going to find more and more cool stars flaring. If you consider that pulsars are 10 and stars that do not flare are 0 then Sol must be about 3? Sol 'flares' every 11 years, is that not correct?


Not quite, pulsars don't flare.