Amazed astronomers have discovered a new “failed star” right in our own cosmic backyard, they revealed this week.
The brown dwarf is one of the closest objects in the universe to us but has previously gone undetected.
It is orbiting the 24th nearest star system to the sun and was discovered by a team using Europe’s Very Large Telescope on a mountaintop in Chile.
The brown dwarf – an object that is neither a star nor a planet – is 12.7 light-years away and is the third closest to the Earth yet discovered.
It is also one of the coolest with a temperature of 750 degrees Celsius and is orbiting its parent star at around 4.5 times the distance of the Earth from the sun.
The exotic object is believed to be a star that failed to become hot enough to ignite. Its weight is estimated at between nine and 65 times that of our solar system’s biggest planet Jupiter.
A spokesman for the European Southern Observatory said: “At a time when astronomers are peering into the most distant Universe, looking at objects as far as 13 billion light-years away, one may think that our close neighbourhood would be very well known. Not so.
“Astronomers still find new star-like objects in our immediate vicinity.”
The brown dwarf is orbiting a red star called SCR 1845-6357, which is the 36th closest star to the Sun (many star systems are made up of more than one star).
An international team used a high-contrast imager to separate the faint brown dwarf from the glare of its parent star. (Picture: ESO artwork).
© Paul Sutherland. Unauthorised reproduction forbidden.