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Latest Planetar Stories

Ultra-cool Brown Dwarf Helps Reveal Giant Planets
2012-05-11 02:57:58

An international team of astronomers led by David Pinfield of the University of Hertfordshire has found a brown dwarf that is more than 99% hydrogen and helium. Described as ultra-cool, it has a temperature of just 400 degrees Celsius and its discovery could be a key step forward in helping astronomers distinguish between brown dwarfs and giant planets. The researchers publish their work in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Brown dwarfs are star-like objects...

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2010-06-24 15:35:00

Astronomers have uncovered what appear to be 14 of the coldest stars known in our universe. These failed stars, called brown dwarfs, are so cold and faint that they'd be impossible to see with current visible-light telescopes. Spitzer's infrared vision was able to pick out their feeble glow, much as a firefighter uses infrared goggles to find hot spots buried underneath a dark forest floor. The brown dwarfs join only a handful of similar objects previously discovered. The new objects are...

2009-08-28 08:43:00

GREENBELT, Md., Aug. 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The dust-filled disks where new planets may be forming around other stars occasionally take on some difficult-to-understand shapes. Now, a team led by John Debes at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., finds that a star's motion through interstellar gas can account for many of them. (Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO) "The disks contain small comet- or asteroid-like bodies that may grow to form...

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2009-04-20 07:51:25

An international team, led by astronomers at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK, have discovered one of the coolest sub-stellar bodies ever found outside our own solar system, orbiting the red dwarf star Wolf 940, some 40 light years from Earth. Dr Ben Burningham of the University of Hertfordshire will present this discovery on Monday 20th April at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science conference. "Although it has a temperature of 300 degrees Celsius, which is almost hot...

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2009-02-12 15:34:22

Processes that laid the foundation for life on Earth -- star and planet formation and the production of complex organic molecules in interstellar space -- are yielding their secrets to astronomers armed with powerful new research tools, and even better tools soon will be available. Astronomers described three important developments at a symposium on the "Cosmic Cradle of Life" at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago, IL. In one development,...

2008-01-21 09:23:24

Two old stars appear to be gearing up for a second generation of planet formation, a phenomenon astronomers say they have never seen before. "This is a new class of stars, ones that display conditions now ripe for formation of a second generation of planets, long, long after the stars themselves formed," said UCLA astronomy graduate student Carl Melis, who reported the findings at a recent meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas. The stars are BP...

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2007-04-17 17:43:13

Astronomers based at Jodrell Bank Observatory have found evidence that giant whirlpools form in the wake of stars as they move through clouds in interstellar space.  The discovery will be presented by Dr Chris Wareing at the Royal Astronomical Society's National Astronomy Meeting in Preston on 17th April. Dr Wareing and his colleagues used the COBRA supercomputer to simulate in three-dimensions the movement of a dying star through surrounding interstellar gas. At the end of their life,...

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2006-10-12 09:55:00

Cambridge, MA -- The 200 known planets that orbit other stars exhibit incredible variety. Among them are a handful of worlds that weigh between 5 and 15 times Earth. Astronomers believe these "super-Earths" are rocky iceballs rather than gas giants like Jupiter. While theorists can explain how such worlds form around Sun-like stars, the discovery of super-Earths around tiny red dwarf stars was surprising. New research suggests that some super-Earths build up rapidly when local temperatures...

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2006-09-20 06:30:00

Cambridge, MA - Scientists using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have discovered and directly imaged a small brown dwarf star, 50 times the mass of Jupiter, orbiting with a planet around a Sun-like star. Such an arrangement has never before been seen but might be common, the scientists say, leading to solar systems with distorted planetary orbits. Kevin Luhman of Penn State University is the lead author on a report describing this discovery, which will be published in The Astrophysical...

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2006-09-07 12:25:00

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have photographed one of the smallest objects ever seen around a normal star beyond our Sun. Weighing in at 12 times the mass of Jupiter, the object is small enough to be a planet. The conundrum is that it's also large enough to be a brown dwarf, a failed star. The Hubble observation of the diminutive companion to the low-mass red dwarf star CHXR 73 is a dramatic reminder that astronomers do not have a consensus in deciding which objects...