The first of many
Scientists were able to find a cold, weak “superplanet” that could not be detected with conventional infrared surveying methods.
Discovered by the Low-Frequency Array or LOFAR radio telescope, it is a brown dwarf named BDR J1750 + 3809 and nicknamed Elegast. Brown dwarfs are sometimes referred to as failed stars because they are too small to be considered stars but too large to be planets.
So far, brown dwarfs have been discovered using infrared sky surveys. Elegast is the first substellar object found with a radio telescope, according to a source at the University of Hawaii.
More work for LOFAR from it
Michael Lou, co-author of the study and a researcher at the Department of Astronomy at the University of Hawaii, said this has resulted in an entirely new way to find the coldest objects that are near the Sun that could not exist with the methods they’d used for the past 25 years.
Because brown dwarfs are too small to be stars, they won’t go through the same nuclear fusion reactions to fire bright stars like the sun. Therefore, they are smaller, darker and colder than normal stars and difficult to see under normal circumstances. But the brown dwarfs emit light at radio wavelengths, and that is exactly what the LOFAR picked up.
Elegast was first discovered with the Netherlands-based LOFAR. Their observations were then confirmed using the International Gemini Observatory in Hawaii and Chile and the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility operated by the University of Hawaii.
The scientists are now planning to use the LOFAR to discover other celestial objects such as gas giant exoplanets that are too cold and weak to be localized by conventional means.
(Cover picture: © ASTRON / Danielle Futselaar)