Home > Astronomy, Brown Dwarves, Exoplanets, General Astronomy > Photo Reveals Planet-Size Object as Cool as Earth

Photo Reveals Planet-Size Object as Cool as Earth


Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Francis Reddy

Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Francis Reddy

The photo of a nearby star and its orbiting companion — whose temperature is like a hot summer day in Arizona — will be presented by Penn State Associate Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics Kevin Luhman during the Signposts of Planets conference at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center on 20 October 2011. A paper describing the discovery will be published in theAstrophysical Journal.

“This planet-like companion is the coldest object ever directly photographed outside our solar system,” said Luhman, who led the discovery team. “Its mass is about the same as many of the known extra-solar planets — about six to nine times the mass of Jupiter — but in other ways it is more like a star. Essentially, what we have found is a very small star with an atmospheric temperature about cool as the Earth’s.”

Luhman classifies this object as a “brown dwarf,” an object that formed just like a star out of a massive cloud of dust and gas. But the mass that a brown dwarf accumulates is not enough to ignite thermonuclear reactions in its core, resulting in a failed star that is very cool. In the case of the new brown dwarf, the scientists have gauged the temperature of its surface to be between 80 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit — possibly as cool as a human.

Full Story: http://science.psu.edu/news-and-events/2011-news/Luhman10-2011

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