Astronomers and a team of data-investigating volunteers part of the Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 (a citizen science project) have found 100 cool worlds close to the Sun. The discovered space objects are more massive than planets but smaller than stars called brown dwarfs.
The discoveries were realized with the help of W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea in Hawaii. Astronomers discovered that many of these new worlds are among the closest ever seen, with a few only approaching the temperature of our planet. Here is what you need to know.
New Cool Worlds Discovered: Features and Other Significant Details
The latest Backyard Worlds discovery connects a previously blank gap in the range of low-temperature brown dwarfs, distinguishing a long-sought missing piece within the brown dwarf population. And the newly discovered cool worlds comes with new insights into the development and atmospheres of worlds beyond the solar system. The brown dwarfs can also help astronomers to precisely estimate the number of free-floating worlds in the interstellar space close to the Sun.
Discussing the methods and tools used to realize the discovery, Adam Burgasser, UC San Diego’s Professor of Physics, explained: “We used the NIRES spectra to measure the temperature and gases present in their atmospheres.”
Follow-up investigations utilizing NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, Las Campanas Observatory, and Mont Megantic Observatory helped astronomers to estimate the brown dwarf temperatures. Data sets from NASA’s WISE satellite and archival investigations from telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory were also beneficial in finding these brown dwarfs.
The Backyard Worlds volunteers have already found more than 1,500 stars and brown dwarfs close to the Sun. This recent discovery is around 100 of the coldest in that batch. It is an impressive record for any citizen science program and shows how important are members of the public.
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