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That’s one cool brown dwarf

These two infrared images were taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope in 2004 and 2009. They show a faint object moving through space together with a white dwarf. The brown dwarf, named WD 0806-661 B, is the coldest companion object to be directly imaged outside our solar system. Credit: Kevin Luhman, Penn State University, October 2011

I don’t know what it is about brown dwarfs, but I just love these things. Maybe it’s the thought of a bunch of cold bodies wandering unseen, up to now anyway, through interstellar space:

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.

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