WISE 0855, a failed star 7.2 light years from Earth, may have
WISE 0855 is what’s known as a brown dwarf: too small to be considered a star, yet too large to be classified as a planet. The first brown dwarf was discovered in 1995, and some astronomers believe they could be as frequent in the universe as stars. Brown dwarves are thought to form in a similar manner to stars—from a collapsing cloud of gas and dust—but do not develop into an object dense enough for nuclear fusion to occur. Stars shine due to a conversion of hydrogen into helium by nuclear fusion. As brown dwarves do not achieve this, they are very dim and difficult to detect, hence their alternative identities as “failed” stars.
Using the Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii, astronomers from UC Santa Cruz deduced the composition and chemistry of WISE 0855.
“We would expect an object that cold to have
“Our spectrum reveals the presence of atmospheric
Previous observations of WISE 0855 from 2014, when it was first discovered, provided some hints of
“It’s five times fainter than any other object detected with ground-based spectroscopy at this wavelength,” Skemer added. “Now that we have a spectrum, we can really start thinking about what’s going on in this object. Our spectrum shows that WISE 0855 is dominated by
The object’s temperature was confirmed at minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to the temperature of Jupiter’s clouds at minus 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Unlike Jupiter, WISE 0855 doesn’t have a lot of Phosphine, a phosphorous and hydrogen compound—which is a good indicator Jupiter’s atmosphere is turbulent, but WISE 0855’s is not.