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article imageNew research shines light on brown dwarfs

By Tim Sandle     Apr 20, 2016 in Science
Paris - Brown dwarf stars are rare and remain a mystery to astrophysists. The stars are "brown" when viewed through a telescope because they cannot burn enough nuclear fuel to shine as brightly as other stars. A new study sheds a little more light.
Brown dwarf stars have low levels of nuclear fusion. Some scientists think these spatial bodies are a stepping stone between more conventional stars and gaseous planets. Brown dwarfs are thought to begin as conventional stars; however, something happens to disrupt the nuclear fusion reaction, and the starts become dimly lit smaller stars instead of more conventional white or blue light stars.
Although the stellar objects are named “brown dwarfs” they are, in fact, formed of different colors. Several brown dwarfs appear magenta or orange or red. Brown dwarfs share the characteristic of not being very luminous at visible wavelengths.
One brown dwarf has been studied in greater depth than any similar start before. The brown dwarf is classified HD 4747 B. This star is some 61 light years away from Earth, which is relatively close in terms of stellar distances.
Research into brown dwarf stars has been hampered by the stars being difficult to visualize. Detection has been improved through advances in telescopes, particularly via the Keck telescopes in Hawaii. This has led HD 4747 B to be studied in more depth. Initial information collected concern the star’s distance and precise location. Despite the technological advances, the research has taken eighteen years to accumulate.
Understanding these physical aspects reveals more. Speaking with science website Laboratory Roots, Professor John Crepp, who has led the recent studied explains: “You can infer physical properties of the brown dwarf from its parent star, like age and composition.”
This analysis reveals that HD 4747 B has the mass of approximately 60 Jupiter type planets. While very large, it means the star is considerably smaller than the Earth’s sun.
Professor Crepp hopes to use the information collected about the mass and age of the star as a benchmark for the study of other brown dwarfs.
The research has been conducted at the French astrophysics facility at the University of Notre Dame. The findings are published in the Astrophysics Journal, in a paper titled “The TRENDS High-Contrast Imaging Survey. VI. Discovery of a Mass, Age, and Metallicity Benchmark Brown Dwarf.”
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