Brown dwarfs are mysterious objects that straddle the line between stars and planets and are important to our understanding of both stellar and planetary populations.
They are mysterious astronomical objects that fill the gap between the heaviest planets and the lightest stars. Due to their hybrid nature, Brown bears are important to improve our understanding of both stars and planets. However, over the years, only 40 brown dwarfs could be imaged around stars in three decades of searches.
Brown dwarfs that orbit a parent star from far away are more valuable as they can be directly photographed, unlike those that are in close proximity to their star. The simple reason is that they are hidden by the star’s brightness.
The four imaged brown dwarfs are a find of a team of researchers led by Mariangela Bonavita from the Open University and Clemence Fontanive from the Center for Space and Habitability and the NCCR Planets at the University of Bern. The report has been published in the journal ‘Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
It’s important to note that this is the first time that multiple new systems with brown dwarf companions on wide orbital separations have been announced at the same time.
Commenting on the finding, head researcher Mariangela Bonavita said, “Wide-orbit brown dwarf companions are rare to start with, and detecting them directly poses huge technical challenges since the host stars completely blind our telescopes”. Adding, Clemence Fontanive from the Center for Space and Habitability and the NCCR Planets at the University of Bern, said “An alternative approach to increase the number of detections is to only observe stars that show indications of an additional object in their system”.
Bonavita further explained that these findings will significantly advance the number of known brown dwarfs orbiting stars from large distances, giving a major boost in detection rate compared to any previous imaging survey.
She concluded by saying that the result was only achieved because the team believed that, when combining space and ground-based facilities to directly image exoplanets, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
She also hoped that this will be the start of a new era of synergy between different instruments and detection methods.
first published:June 11, 2022, 7:48 p.m.
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