PSU news by
Penn State's student blog

Topics

About

Penn State Astronomer Discovers Coldest Brown Dwarf, The Fourth-Closest Star To Sun

Penn State astronomer Dr. Kevin Luhman added to his discovery list recently by identifying WISE J085510.83-071442.5, the coldest known brown dwarf in the universe and fourth-closest star to the sun.

It’s an important discovery, but perhaps better described in layman’s terms for those yet to take ASTRO 001: Brown dwarfs are born as bright stars like the sun, but they do not fuse hydrogen and therefore become dimmer as their lives progress. Luhman’s recent finding is about 100 degrees warmer than Jupiter and three-to-10 times the mass of it — very small for a star. The possibility thus exists that this star could actually be a Jupiter-like planet that fell from its star system. The star’s distance to us is also key — at 7.2 lightyears, only three known stars are closer than it to the sun, one of which was also found by Luhman.

As you’d figure, Luhman didn’t find WISE J085510.83-071442.5 overnight. He gathered images of the sky from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer over several months.

“It’s very time-consuming, simply retrieving all of the data from the Internet,” Luhman said. “It was a couple terabytes of data, then processing it on my computer took a couple of months as well. It was a great deal of work to retrieve the data and process it.”

When studying the images, Luhman noticed one particularly fast-moving body (rule of thumb: The faster a body appears to move, the closer to us it probably is). He then viewed Spitzer telescope images to pinpoint its distance from us by using the parallax effect, as shown here.

The discovery also opens the door for future research.

“Because it’s as cold as a gas giant planet, that means you can use it as a laboratory for studying the properties of gas giant planets,” Luhman said. “From now on, people will probably use this cold brown dwarf to learn more about gas giant planets, even though it’s probably not a planet itself.”

As far as humans understand the universe, the new brown dwarf cannot sustain life without a solid surface or proper temperature. But it’s a big discovery, especially cool considering it came from here. Great work, Dr. Luhman!

About the Author

Tim Gilbert

Former Managing Editor of this site, now just makes lots of #content for it from the Phyrst’s Table 69. Senior from Philadelphia. First-generation Penn Stater. I might go to law school after this, but I might not, too. “For the Glory” is in my email signature because I’m a douche. [email protected] is my email if you want to tell me why I suck. Alternatively, you can call me out on Twitter @OlGilb.

Comments

More by Tim

Penn State’s New Academic Mark Is Just Awful

My brain is not able to understand how a team of people supposedly proficient in this industry gathered, looked at this new mark, and said, “Yes, this will do!”

Penn State Hoops To Host DePaul In Inaugural Gavitt Tipoff

James Franklin To Throw First Pitch At Yankee Stadium On April 28

Athletics

Reports: Tony Carr To Begin Professional Career In Italy

Tony Carr might have to wait a little longer than he had hoped to make his NBA debut.

Penn State Hockey’s Aarne Talvitie Showcases At Devils Development Camp

Penn State Hoops Releases 2018-19 Non-Conference Schedule

Forward Abdou Tsimbila Commits To Penn State Hoops

Penn State Volleyball Trio Representing U.S. At Pan-American Cup

Student Life

Penn State Student Dies Of Allergic Reaction To Peanuts

Max McGlinchey had just finished his freshman year studying finance.

Freshman 101: On-Campus Life

Student Farm To Commemorate Summer Solstice With Second Annual Celebration

Plans Submitted For New KFC In State College

Developers have submitted preliminary land development plans to build a new KFC restaurant at 1780 S. Atherton St. in State College.

Indigo Closes, Future Plans For Nightclub Space Await

Indigo Nightclub announced that it would be closing following Arts Fest, but it doesn’t sound like the Hotel State College bar space would be empty for long

Playa Bowls To Open State College Location

Famous on the Jersey Shore for its brightly colored bowls and smoothies, Playa Bowls’ menu includes everything from açai and pitaya bowls to fresh juices.

Be the first to know

  • Top posts and the best Penn State stories

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

Doggie’s Rathskeller And Garden Opens With Hopes Of Returning To Its Roots

The All-American Rathskeller is no more and Doggie’s Rathskeller and Garden is officially in business — opening with its “sneak peak” at the new bar Thursday afternoon in time for Arts Fest.

Send this to a friend