Astronomers over at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), along with members of the general public, discover ninety-five (95) brown dwarf heavenly bodies near our solar system’s sun.
The recent discovery announced in the latest release is the fruit of a collaborative project between specialists over the space agency and the public dubbed Backyard Worlds: Planet 9. It is funded by the government wherein astronomers call upon collaboration between volunteers in doing the data crunching work.
What are these brown dwarfs?
Contrary to its name, a brown dwarf is actually magenta or orange-red color when viewed with the naked eye. A body in space, they are dubbed as ‘failed stars’ because they are not big enough to generate energy themselves like stars but are heavier compared to most planets.
Though most brown dwarfs are super-hot, with most of them have core temperatures of below 3 million degrees, most of the newly discovered batch of brown dwarfs have quite cool surface temperatures. Some even have almost similar temperature dynamics of Earth and even have clouds made out of water.
Low-temperature brown dwarfs are detectable in the faint light and also have small diameters. Though they are a lot cooler compared to their normal counterparts, they still give off heat that registers in the form of infrared light. You can’t see this form of light but specialized tools and equipment can detect and document such a phenomenon.
Why study these heavenly bodies?
Having a better understanding of other celestial bodies near our Solar System is essential for scientists to map other related space bodies and objects as well as having a broader perspective on how the universe formed in the past. This latest discovery, with the majority of the discovered brown dwarves, have cooler temperatures, will help astronomers connect the dots, and decipher the history of brown dwarfs as well.
How scientists and the public collaborated?
Astronomers and specialists over at NASA asked for the help of more than 100,000 citizen scientists in order for the project to push through. Volunteers all over the globe painstakingly examined every pixel from telescope data to be able to detect the subtle movements of brown dwarfs. But why enlist the help of humans if a machine can possibly do the job? According to the same press release by the space agency, there is no better substitute than the discerning pair of human eyes to take on this daunting task.
The Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 project incorporates data from the space agency’s Near-Earth Object Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) satellite. Other pieces of information that were used were provided by other sophisticated NASA tools and equipment such as the now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope and NOIRLab of the National Science Foundation.
The aforementioned project has already made more than 1,500 discoveries of brown dwarfs but this recent development is the largest published set of these cold worlds. It is expected that new equipment that will soon be launched by NASA, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, will help in mapping more brown dwarfs in our universe.
If you want to take part in this awesome project, you can head on over their site and check it out yourself. You wouldn’t want to miss out on this opportunity!