Hubble applauds waltzing dwarfs

June 9, 2017
The image is a stack of 12 images made over the course of three years with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Using high-precision astrometry, an Italian-led team of astronomers tracked the two components of the system as they moved both across the sky and around each other. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, L. Bedin et al.

This seemingly unspectacular series of dots with varying distances between them actually shows the slow waltz of two brown dwarfs. The image is a stack of 12 images made over the course of three years with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Using high-precision astrometry, an Italian-led team of astronomers tracked the two components of the system as they moved both across the sky and around each other.

The observed system, Luhman 16AB, is only about six light-years away and is the third closest stellar system to Earth—after the system Alpha Centauri and Barnard's Star. Despite its proximity, Luhman 16AB was only discovered in 2013 by the astronomer Kevin Luhman. The two brown dwarfs that make up the system, Luhman 16A and Luhman 16B, orbit each other at a distance of only three times the distance between the Earth and the sun, and so these observations are a showcase for Hubble's precision and high resolution.

The astronomers using Hubble to study Luhman 16AB were not only interested in the waltz of the two brown dwarfs, but were also searching for a third, invisible, dancing partner. Earlier observations with the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope indicated the presence of an exoplanet in the system. The team wanted to verify this claim by analyzing the movement of the in great detail over a long period of time, but the Hubble data showed that the two dwarfs are indeed dancing alone, unperturbed by a massive planetary companion.

Credit: NASA

Explore further: First weather map of brown dwarf

Related Stories

First weather map of brown dwarf

January 29, 2014

ESO's Very Large Telescope has been used to create the first ever map of the weather on the surface of the nearest brown dwarf to Earth. An international team has made a chart of the dark and light features on WISE J104915.57-531906.1B, ...

Nearby failed stars may harbor planet

December 16, 2013

(Phys.org) —Astronomers, including Carnegie's Yuri Beletsky, took precise measurements of the closest pair of failed stars to the Sun, which suggest that the system harbors a third, planetary-mass object.The research is ...

The closest star system found in a century

March 11, 2013

(Phys.org) —A pair of newly discovered stars is the third-closest star system to the Sun, according to a paper that will be published in Astrophysical Journal Letters. The duo is the closest star system discovered since ...

Speeding star gives new clues to breakup of multi-star system

March 30, 2017

A remarkable new discovery using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveals three stars that now hold the record as the youngest-known examples of a super-fast-flying breed. "Until these observations, only a few—but older—examples ...

Recommended for you

Solar eruptions could electrify Martian moons

October 18, 2017

Powerful solar eruptions could electrically charge areas of the Martian moon Phobos to hundreds of volts, presenting a complex electrical environment that could possibly affect sensitive electronics carried by future robotic ...

4 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

cantdrive85
1 / 5 (4) Jun 10, 2017
The helical motion of the stars is discernible. Just as the Sun moves through the MW.

https://www.youtu...-ooITrws
nkalanaga
5 / 5 (5) Jun 10, 2017
The helical motion is due to parallax. What one is seeing is the Earth's motion around the Sun, changing the viewing angle to the system relative to the much more distant stars. For most pictures of a star system, the camera is locked on the system, and the more distant stars would be seen to move between images. In this case Hubble was fixed on the background.

That's the same effect Hipparchos and Gaia use to determine stellar distances.
CarnSoaks
not rated yet Jun 17, 2017
Is there an exo-planet @ the bottom right hand star on the GIF. Expand and watch the cycle, definite circular object passing this star. Credit C.Soaks OZ
CarnSoaks
not rated yet Jun 17, 2017
Is there an exo-planet @ the bottom right hand star on the GIF. Expand and watch the cycle, definite circular object passing this star. Credit C.Soaks OZ


plus 2nd, bright star bottom left quadrant, 2 from bottom, 3-4 from left.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.