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Two bizarre brown dwarfs found with citizen scientists’ help

This is an illustration of a brown dwarf. Despite their name, brown dwarfs would appear magenta or orange-red to the human eye if seen close up. Credits: William Pendrill With the help of citizen scientists, astronomers have discovered two highly unusual brown dwarfs, balls of gas that are not massive enough to power themselves the way stars do.

Participants in the NASA-funded Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 project helped lead scientists to these bizarre objects, using data from NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) satellite along with all-sky observations collected between 2009 and 2011 under its previous moniker, WISE. Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 is an example of ” citizen science ,” a collaboration between professional scientists and members of the public.

Scientists call the newly discovered objects “the first extreme T-type subdwarfs.” They weigh about 75 times the mass of Jupiter and clock in at roughly 10 billion years old. These two objects are the most planet-like brown dwarfs yet seen among the Milky Way’s oldest population of stars.

Astronomers hope to use these brown dwarfs to learn more about exoplanets, which are planets outside of our solar system. The same physical processes may form both planets and brown dwarfs.

“These surprising, […]

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