Science News

Curated by RSF Research Staff

Failed Stars may act more like Giant Planets

Like stars, planets are theorized to form in nebula - dense interstellar clouds of dust, hydrogen helium and other ionized gases. In these nebula, a rotating cloud will be compressed gravitationally, getting hotter and denser until upon reaching a critical point a star will form. Simultaneously, as the cloud rotates, angular momentum is pushed outwards forming a flat disc around the star – known as a "protoplanetary" disc and believed to be the birth place of planets. However, although this is the accepted view point, the exact mechanisms and details are yet to be completely understood.

Now a team of researchers studying the infrared spectra of brown dwarfs, at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), have found that the atmosphere in these cold stars is more similar to the behavior seen in planets. Could it be that these brown dwarfs – or failed stars as they are sometimes called– are more like planets?

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) defines a brown dwarf as any object with enough mass to fuse deuterium while any object with insufficient mass to fuse deuterium is deemed a mere planet. However, with their mass range lying between the heaviest gas giants and the lightest of stars, it is still somewhat ambiguous and are thus deemed the missing link between the two.

“Brown dwarfs are the missing link between gas giant planets like Jupiter and small stars like red dwarfs" -
Ian McLean, an astronomer at the University of California, Los Angeles.

With further observations and studies, a clearer picture – from a unified physics perspective - may emerge into the exact details and mechanisms responsible for stellar and planet formation.



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