Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Astronomers find bounty of failed stars

12.10.2011
Astronomers find bounty of failed stars: One youngster only six times heftier than Jupiter

A University of Toronto-led team of astronomers has discovered over two dozen new free-floating brown dwarfs, including a lightweight youngster only about six times heftier than Jupiter, that reside in two young star clusters. What's more, one cluster contains a surprising surplus of them, harbouring half as many of these astronomical oddballs as normal stars.

"Our findings suggest once again that objects not much bigger than Jupiter could form the same way as stars do. In other words, nature appears to have more than one trick up its sleeve for producing planetary mass objects," says Professor Ray Jayawardhana, Canada Research Chair in Observational Astrophysics at the University of Toronto and leader of the international team that made the discovery.

Brown dwarfs straddle the boundary between stars and planets. Sometimes described as failed stars, they glow brightly when young, from the heat of formation, but cool down over time and end up with atmospheres that exhibit planet-like characteristics. Scientists think that most brown dwarfs may have formed like stars, in isolation from contracting gas clouds, but some of the puniest free-floaters may have formed like planets around a star and later ejected.

The findings come from observations using the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii and the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile during the Substellar Objects in Nearby Young Clusters (SONYC) survey. Astronomers took extremely deep images of the NGC 1333 and rho Ophiuchi star clusters with Subaru at both optical and infrared wavelengths. Once they identified candidate brown dwarfs from the very red colors, the research team confirmed them with spectra taken at Subaru and the VLT. The team's findings will be reported in two upcoming papers in the Astrophysical Journal and presented this week at a scientific conference in Garching, Germany.

The six-Jupiter-mass brown dwarf found in the NGC 1333 cluster is one of the least massive free-floating objects known. "Its mass is comparable to those of giant planets, yet it doesn't circle a star. How it formed is a mystery," said Aleks Scholz of the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies in Ireland, lead author of one paper and a former postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto.

Several other newly identified brown dwarfs in both NGC 1333 and rho Ophiuchi clusters have masses below 20 times that of Jupiter.

"Brown dwarfs seem to be more common in NGC 1333 than in other young star clusters. That difference may be hinting at how different environmental conditions affect their formation," says University of Toronto’s Koraljka Muzic, lead author of the second paper.

"We could not have made these exciting discoveries if not for the remarkable capabilities of Subaru and the VLT. Instruments that can image large patches of the sky and take hundreds of spectra at once are key to our success," said co-author Motohide Tamura of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

Other co-authors of the two papers are Vincent Geers of ETH Zurich in Switzerland, also a former UofT postdoc, and Mariangela Bonavita of the University of Toronto.

Note to media: Visit www.artsci.utoronto.ca/main/media-releases/brown-dwarfs-from-sonyc-survey for images and research papers associate with this media release.

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Ray Jayawardhana
Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
University of Toronto
rayjay@astro.utoronto.ca
857-334-3406
Dr. Koraljka Muzic
University of Toronto
muzic@astro.utoronto.ca
416-978-4971
Dr. Aleks Scholz
Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies
aleks@cp.dias.ie
353 (0)86 126 6608
Dr. Motohide Tamura
National Astronomical Observatory of Japan
motohide.tamura@nao.ac.jp
+81 (0)90 7198 8360
Sean Bettam
Communications, Faculty of Arts & Science
University of Toronto
s.bettam@utoronto.ca
416-946-7950

Sean Bettam | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.utoronto.ca
http://ww.artsci.utoronto.ca/main/media-releases/astronomers-find-bounty-of-failed-stars

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Levitating objects with light
19.03.2019 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Stellar cartography
19.03.2019 | Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

Im Focus: Revealing the secret of the vacuum for the first time

New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum

For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...

Im Focus: Sussex scientists one step closer to a clock that could replace GPS and Galileo

Physicists in the EPic Lab at University of Sussex make crucial development in global race to develop a portable atomic clock

Scientists in the Emergent Photonics Lab (EPic Lab) at the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough to a crucial element of an atomic clock - devices...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Molecular motors run in unison in a metal-organic framework

20.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Active substance from plant slows down aggressive eye cancer

20.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Novel sensor system improves reliability of high-temperature humidity measurements

20.03.2019 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>