(HOUSTON) — Two NASA space telescopes have discovered a “brown dwarf” — a star without the mass to burn nuclear fuel and radiate light — that’s as cold as the North Pole, according to the space agency.
“It is remarkable that even after many decades of studying the sky, we still do not have a complete inventory of the sun’s nearest neighbors,” NASA scientist Michael Werner said in a statement Friday.
The star is surprisingly close: it ranks as the fourth-closest star system to Earth’s sun at 7.2 light-years away (the closest star system, Alpha Centauri, is four light-years away).
“It’s very exciting to discover a new neighbor of our solar system that is so close,” said Kevin Luhman, a Pennsylvania State University astronomer. “And given its extreme temperature, it should tell us a lot about the atmospheres of planets, which often have similarly cold temperatures.”
The temperatures on this brown dwarf is between minus-54 and 9 degrees Fahrenheit. Brown dwarfs lack the mass to shed light or much heat, making them hard to detect without a telescope that can use an infrared lens.
Other brown dwarf stars that humans have discovered have been approximately room temperature.
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