Brown Dwarf Found Orbiting Young Sun-like Star

A new discovery sheds light on the early stages of solar system formation as astronomers image a young brown dwarf in a close orbit with a nearby sun-like star. A team of astronomers and graduate students made the rare discovery using the NICI (Near-Infrared Coronagraphic Imager) and the 8-meter Gemini-South Telescope in Chile.

The distance between the sun-like star and its brown dwarf companion is what makes this discovery exciting. The 36 Jupiter-mass brown dwarf (PZ Tel B) and the sun-like star (PZ Tel A) are only 18 AUs (Astronomical Units) apart, similar to the distance between our sun and the planet Uranus.

Most of the younger brown dwarf and their companions found by imaging are generally separated by a distance of over 50 AUs, many times the distance that astronomers have just found. But the close distance between the two objects isn’t the only thing that’s interesting about the new imaging, researchers have observed the brown dwarf moving quickly outward from its parent star, indicating its orbit to be more elliptical than circular.

Source: University of Arizona
Image Credit: Beth Biller and the Gemini NICI Planet-Finding Campaign

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