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Space & Astronomy

Mystery object is hurtling through the galaxy

September 3, 2021 | Comment icon 10 comments

'The Accident' is one unusual (and very old) brown dwarf. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
Astronomers have obtained their first detailed look at a peculiar Milky Way object known as 'The Accident'.
Originally detected using NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) telescope, this object is not quite a star, yet not quite a planet either.

It fits into a class of objects known as brown dwarfs (or failed stars) - a type of star that can be up to 80 times the diameter of Jupiter, yet with a mass significantly lower than that of the Sun.

Brown dwarfs are thought to start off their life as a regular star but their mass prevents them from being able to sustain nuclear fusion, causing them to dim and fade away over billions of years.

This particular example, however, is quite unusual even for a brown dwarf.

Known as 'The Accident' because it was discovered 'photo-bombing' a group of other candidates, the object appears to possess characteristics consistent with both young and old brown dwarf stars.
"This object defied all our expectations," said lead study author Davy Kirkpatrick.

A further study of the object revealed that it is moving much faster than the typical brown dwarf - suggesting that it may have been flung around the galaxy for billions of years.

Its atmosphere is also strangely devoid of methane - indicating that it could be twice as old as the other brown dwarf stars that astronomers have studied.

"It's not a surprise to find a brown dwarf this old, but it is a surprise to find one in our backyard," said study co-author Federico Marocco.

"We expected that brown dwarfs this old exist, but we also expected them to be incredibly rare."

"The chance of finding one so close to the solar system could be a lucky coincidence, or it tells us that they're more common than we thought."

Source: Live Science | Comments (10)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by pallidin 9 months ago
As long as it's not headed towards Earth, I'm good.
Comment icon #2 Posted by NCC1701 9 months ago
We are all safe, there is nothing to worry about.
Comment icon #3 Posted by OpenMindedSceptic 9 months ago
Aliens. Or Planet X.    
Comment icon #4 Posted by Nnicolette 9 months ago
Why is it called the accident anyways?
Comment icon #5 Posted by pallidin 9 months ago
Failed star... "Brown dwarf"
Comment icon #6 Posted by GlitterRose 9 months ago
How do we know we're not "The Accident?"
Comment icon #7 Posted by Manwon Lender 9 months ago
Because we are in an orbit around the Sun, and the Accident in not orbiting anything  it rogue.
Comment icon #8 Posted by quiXilver 9 months ago
I don't know about safe... that's a bold claim. As for worry... I don't bother with it, it's a misuse of imagination. Besides, everyone's life is kinda like a movie where they are the star and every movie ends exactly the same.    The star dies at the end. And we all get a whole lifetime, no matter how long that turns out to be.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Timothy 9 months ago
~50 light-years from Earth travelling at ~800,000kph. If my math is correct (and it could be very wrong), it would take ~67,500 years for something travelling that fast to cover 50 light-years. So we are safe from ‘The Accident’ at least.
Comment icon #10 Posted by quiXilver 9 months ago
Ah I understand you now.  Yes, agreed.  Safe from 'the accident'.   I can get a bit philosophical at times.  Context is everything.

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