Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Star Cooler than Boiling Water?

In a discovery that blurs the definition of what is a large planet and what is a small star comes a story from IO9 which details the discovery of a weird little beastie called a brown dwarf. We have known for some time that one of these strange little stars exists virtually in our backyard 63 light-years distant. But recently it's become clearer hows strange some of them are. Most of course are hardly larger than Jupiter. This means that Hydrogen fusion can not take place. (a mass 60 to 80 times the mass of Jupiter is needed) Brown dwarfs are often very dense animals. Though they may be about the size of Jupiter, they are many times more dense. It really is difficult to call them stars at all. The Spitzer telescope has uncovered a few brown dwarfs that are at most 16 Jupiter masses. Stranger still is their internal temperature is well below that of boiling water and one labeled WD 0806-661B may have a temperature of just 86 degrees Fahrenheit! How many hot days have you heard someone say "it's hotter than the surface of a star out today!" and now it could be a true statement! LOL.

Check out the rest of this weird article on the IO9 blog HERE


Dave Tackett said...

I was listening to the podcast outside today and when you noted the temperature was 86 degrees on the star, I looked up at the bank sign and the temperature there was 84 degrees (within the margin of error of each other).

Then I started wondering if life might possible in a brown dwarf like that. I remember reading a hard SF novel Dragon's Egg about life on a neutron star, improbable, but maybe a brown dwarf might not be so inconceivable.

You inspire weird speculations!

Beam Me Up said...

I remember the novel...never read it though...but yeah it is certainly a weird weird animal. Just contemplating in implications of something so far outside normal expectations.