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+ - Astronomers Discover the Coolest Sub-Stellar Body

Submitted by
Hugh Pickens
Hugh Pickens writes "Science Daily Headlines reports that using the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) in Hawaii, astronomers have discovered what may be the coolest sub-stellar body ever found outside our own solar system. Too small to be stars and with insufficient mass to maintain hydrogen-burning nuclear fusion reactions in their cores, "brown dwarfs" have masses smaller than stars but larger than gas giant planets like Jupiter with an upper limit is between 75 and 80 Jupiter masses. "This looks like being the fourth time in three years that the UKIRT has made a record breaking discovery of the coolest known brown dwarf, with an estimated temperature not far above 200 degrees Celsius," says Dr. Philip Lucas at the University of Hertfordshire. Due to their low temperature these objects are very faint in visible light, and are detected by their glow at infrared wavelengths. The object known as SDSS1416+13B is in a wide orbit around a somewhat brighter and warmer brown dwarf, SDSS1416+13A and the pair is located between 15 and 50 light years from the solar system, which is quite close in astronomical terms. "The fact that it is a binary companion to a warmer brown dwarf that also has an unusual spectrum is helping us to fill in some gaps in our understanding," says Dr. Ben Burningham. "It seems likely that both brown dwarfs are somewhat poor in heavy elements. This can be explained if they are very old, which also fits with the very low temperature of the faint companion.""

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