Space, Physics, and Math

VIDEO: The brown dwarf hunter

One astronomer thinks failed stars will help us understand the origins of celestial objects

June 15, 2018
A swirling disc of planet-building dust surrounds a brown dwarf in this artist's impression. Some scientists believe brown dwarfs can be thought of as a missing link between planets and stars. [NASA/JPL-Caltech]

Nobody is quite sure what brown dwarfs actually are. Too dim to be even considered stars but too bright to be classified as planets, astronomers often describe them as “failed stars” or “over-ambitious planets.”

These mysterious missing links cut to the heart of our ignorance of how celestial objects form. And they have become an obsession for Emily Rice, an astronomer at the CUNY College of Staten Island, who believes brown dwarfs may explain the origins of planets and stars and give us clues about life in the universe.

VIDEO: The brown dwarf hunter from Scienceline on Vimeo.

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About the Author

Emiliano Rodríguez Mega is a science journalist from Mexico City who covers Latin America and more. He likes to tell the stories of the people behind the science, those who are affected by it, and those who use it to manipulate us. His work has been published in the Associated Press, Scientific American, Undark, and the news sections of Science and Nature.

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