Brown dwarfs: From zeroes to astronomical heroes.

“The most unloved, drab objects in all of space are fast becoming the new cosmic “it” objects, providing insights into exoplanets and a lot more besides

AS IF space wasn’t lonely enough, pity the brown dwarf. Compared with their stellar siblings, these astronomical objects are something of a failure. And while they have much in common with planets, they don’t seem to fit in there either.

This awkward status as cosmic in-betweener means brown dwarfs are often overshadowed by their flashier counterparts, such as alien worlds or fiery supernovae. Yet not fitting in is precisely what makes brown dwarfs far more interesting and useful than we once thought.

As new evidence of these celestial outcasts emerges, they are challenging our ideas about the differences between planets and stars. Some have weather unlike anything seen before, from molten iron falling as rain to silicate snow. And the traits they share with exoplanets means that we can learn things that telescopes pointed at alien worlds cannot reveal. The most unloved destinations in space are fast becoming the new cosmic “it” objects.”

via Brown dwarfs: From zeroes to astronomical heroes – space – 26 August 2013 – New Scientist.

This is a brilliant article from New Scientist. It wasn’t until I read this, that I truly began to appreciate the strange world that is Brown Dwarfs. They are fusing stars, and yet have atmospheres. They have weather including rain and clouds (rain of liquid iron, and clouds of silicon, which I admit is pretty extreme weather, but none the less!)  and have temperatures that range from anywhere around 2100 degrees, right down to 27 degrees….YES 27 degrees! thats about as hot as an average Mediterranean holiday, AND ITS A STAR! The masses of brown dwarfs range from 13-75 times the mass of Jupiter, so we are still talking pretty darn big objects.

Also, the name is quite the misnomer. Brown dwarfs are NOT brown. If you could observe one up close and personal, you would see that, in fact, they are a dark orange. The burn so dimly that they are extremely hard to detect from Earth.


This leaves open the possibilities for strange forms of life. We know life exists around the deep underwater thermal vents, where temperatures and pressures are EXTREME. So, this could be an excellent location for life to form. All hypothetical of course. But an interesting thing to think about.