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Researchers Discover A Cold, Close Neighbor Of The Sun

Update Date: Apr 26, 2014 05:41 PM EDT
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Researchers have recently discovered a frosty brown dwarf star that happens to be a close neighbor of the Sun. 

Using NASA's telescopes, astronomers at Penn State University discovered the dwarf star that is believed to be the coldest of its kind - as frosty as North Pole. 

The discovered star has been named WISE J085510.83-071442 and at a distance of 7.2 light years, it is the fourth closest neighbor to the Sun. 

"It is very exciting to discover a new neighbor of our solar system that is so close," said Kevin Luhman, an associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State and a researcher in the Penn State Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds in a press release. "In addition, its extreme temperature should tell us a lot about the atmospheres of planets, which often have similarly cold temperatures."

Researchers said though the finding was exciting, it was not a perfect location for human space travel even in the distant future. 

"Any planets that might orbit it would be much too cold to support life as we know it" Luhman added.

"This object appeared to move really fast in the WISE data. That told us it was something special. The closer a body, the more it appears to move in images taken months apart. Airplanes are a good example of this effect: a closer, low-flying plane will appear to fly overhead more rapidly than a high-flying one."

It was in 2013, that the astronomers first noticed the intense motion of the new brown dwarf star, estimated to be 3-10 times the mass of Jupiter.  The astronomers confirmed it to be a brown dwarf and not a planet after observations of all its images, reported SWR

"It is remarkable that even after many decades of studying the sky, we still do not have a complete inventory of the Sun's nearest neighbors," said Michael Werner, the project scientist for Spitzer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which manages and operates Spitzer in the press release. "This exciting new result demonstrates the power of exploring the universe using new tools, such as the infrared eyes of WISE and Spitzer."

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