Chilly, Chilly, Little Star




This is Scientific American 60-Second Space. I'm Clara Moskowitz Got a minute?
Call this story, "A star is stillborn."
The object is a brown dwarf, which started off the same way that more conventional stars form,
but which lacked the mass required for nuclear fusion to ignite and radiate starlight.
What resulted was a body somewhere in between a star and a planet.
It was spotted recently by NASA's WISE and Spitzer space telescopes.
And it's been dubbed WISE J085510.83-071442.5.
So let's not say its name again, okay?
At only about three to 10 times the mass of Jupiter, this WISE guy is small even for a brown dwarf.
It's the fourth-nearest star system, just 7.2 light-years away.
And it's freezing, about as cold as the North Pole.
Temperatures on this body range from a frosty minus 54 to plus 9 degrees Fahrenheit.
For comparison, the sun's surface is a toasty 10,000 Fahrenheit.
Noticing such a cold object in space that radiates almost no light would be impossible with visible-light telescopes.
Its dim thermal glow was just barely discernible to the infrared eyes of WISE and Spitzer.
And its name ensures mostly continued anonymity.
Thanks for the minute, for Scientific American 60-Second Space. I'm Clara Moskowitz.