Posts Tagged ‘SONYC’

“Failed Stars” Galore with One Youngster Only Six Times Heftier than Jupiter

October 11, 2011 Leave a comment

An international team of astronomers has discovered over two-dozen new free-floating brown dwarfs that reside in two young star clusters. One brown dwarf is a lightweight youngster only about six times heftier than Jupiter. What’s more, one cluster contains a surprising surplus of brown dwarfs; it harbors half as many of these astronomical oddballs as normal stars. These findings come from deep surveys and extensive follow-up observations using the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii and the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, two of the world’s largest optical-infrared telescopes.

Sometimes described as failed stars, brown dwarfs are unusual celestial objects that straddle the boundary between stars and planets. When young, they glow brightly from the heat of formation, but they eventually cool down and end up with atmospheres that exhibit planet-like characteristics.

During the course of the SONYC (Substellar Objects in Nearby Young Clusters) Survey, astronomers used Subaru Telescope to take extremely deep images of the NGC 1333 and rho Ophiuchi star clusters at both optical and infrared wavelengths. Once they identified candidate brown dwarfs from their very red colours, the research team verified their nature with spectra taken at Subaru and the VLT. The team’s findings are reported in two upcoming papers in the Astrophysical Journal and will be presented this week at a scientific conference in Garching, Germany.

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