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NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has discovered stars that are as cool as 80°F. No, really! And the nearest ones discovered are only 9 light-years away. Here's an artist's rendition:


Click the photo for the full story.

From the NASA press release:

Astronomers hunted these dark orbs for more than a decade without success. When viewed with a visible-light telescope, they are nearly impossible to see. WISE's infrared vision allowed the telescope to finally spot the faint glow of a half dozen Y dwarfs relatively close to our sun, within a distance of about 40 light-years.

"WISE scanned the entire sky for these and other objects, and was able to spot their feeble light with its highly sensitive infrared vision," says Jon Morse, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The Y stars are the coldest members of the brown dwarf family. Brown dwarfs are sometimes referred to as "failed" stars. They are too low in mass to fuse atoms at their cores and thus don't burn with the fires that keep stars like our sun shining steadily for billions of years. Instead, these objects cool and fade with time, until what little light they do emit is at infrared wavelengths. The atmospheres of brown dwarfs are similar to those of gas giant planets like Jupiter, but they are easier to observe because they are alone in space, away from the blinding light of a parent star.

So far, WISE data have revealed 100 new brown dwarfs. Of these, six are classified as cool Y's. One of the Y dwarfs, called WISE 1828+2650, is the record holder for the coldest brown dwarf with an estimated atmospheric temperature cooler than room temperature, or less than 80°F (25° C).
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Oh, and the first week of classes is about to wrap up. Should be a great semester, if a bit overworked... technically, I have nine (9) classes this semester, though only three are full-size courses. Yeah, I know.

Chris

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Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
pointoforigin
Aug. 26th, 2011 03:08 am (UTC)
That is so cool! So, if you could avoid being crushed by the monster gravity, you could actually touch a star.

Speaking of being crushed by monster gravity . . . dude! NINE classes? Are they crazy? I mean, yes, you are talented and articulate, but . . . dude!!
mckitterick
Aug. 26th, 2011 03:57 am (UTC)
I know! The story possibilities abound....

The nine-classes thing is my own fault. I only have to teach the three large 'uns, but a bunch of students really wanted to study more advanced tech-writing and -editing classes and do SF writing projects etc....
pointoforigin
Aug. 26th, 2011 01:55 pm (UTC)
Ah . . . so, if crushed by anything, it will be by your own versatility and creativity. I totally understand. Oh well. Maybe you won't be crushed! You'll just be compressed and transformed into something awesome, like the diamond planet!
mckitterick
Aug. 26th, 2011 02:06 pm (UTC)
That's astounding! Two-hour orbit? Cool beans!
bammba_m
Aug. 26th, 2011 04:29 am (UTC)
Love, love, LOVE purple stars!!! If I ever get one of those name-your-own-star-after-yourself, it'll totally be awesome purple star.
mckitterick
Aug. 26th, 2011 02:03 pm (UTC)
I know, right? I think all you need to do in order to name a star is get aboard a Heechee ship.
karin_gastreich
Aug. 26th, 2011 01:04 pm (UTC)
Totally cool -- and what a great image of a Y dwarf. Never even knew they existed until this morning.

Nine classes?? Wow. I will remember that, every time I'm tempted to complain about my load this semester...
mckitterick
Aug. 26th, 2011 02:07 pm (UTC)
I don't recommend it ;-)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )