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Volunteers Help Discover the Reddest Free-Floating Brown Dwarf

Artist concept of a reddish brown dwarf
Artist's impression of an extremely red free-floating brown dwarf like CWISE 0506. (Credit: William Pendrill)

The Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 project has just discovered an object similar to Jupiter that has some of the reddest “colors” we've ever seen for such objects. Astronomers use the word “color” in a special way, since they often look at wavelengths of light that are not visible to humans. But in general, red “color” means that the object is brighter at longer wavelengths and dim at shorter wavelengths. And this object really stands out!

The object, nicknamed CWISE 0506, is a brown dwarf, a ball of gas that’s not massive enough to be a star, travelling alone through space about 100 light years from the Sun. The science team interpreted its red color to mean that this brown dwarf is very young and very cloudy, which would mean it has a mass only a few times that of Jupiter. This discovery should help us understand how free-floating planetary-mass objects form and evolve, and will provide a unique laboratory for studying objects with unusual cloud properties.

The Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 project uses infrared images to discover objects in the furthest depths of our solar system and beyond into our solar neighborhood. You too can help make discoveries in our galactic backyard by visiting www.backyardworlds.org.

NASA’s Citizen Science Program:
Learn about NASA citizen science projects
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