The extreme dance of three brown dwarfs

A team of astronomers has discovered three brown dwarfs that make a complete rotation about once every hour, making them the fastest rotating stars of this type known to date. One of the telescopes used to confirm the finding was Baade at Las Campanas Observatory.

Brown dwarfs are "failed stars". They form like stars but are less massive and shine much less brightly than ordinary stars.

The objects now described and their rotation were first identified by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and subsequently studied by ground-based telescopes by the Gemini North Telescope (in Hawaii) and the Magellan Baade Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory (Carnegie Institution for Science's Las Campanas Observatory in Chile), which confirmed the finding.

Those responsible for this research are astronomers from Western University (Canada).

"We seem to have hit a speed limit on the rotation of brown dwarfs, because despite exhaustive searches by our own team and others, no brown dwarf has been found to rotate faster than this," says Megan Tannock.

This is about 10 times faster than normal and about 30 percent faster than the fastest rotations previously measured for such objects.

Thus, the researchers found that these brown dwarfs rotate at their equator with speeds of about 350,000 kilometers per hour, or 10 times faster than Jupiter: "These unusual brown dwarfs rotate at dizzying speeds," says Sandy Leggett, Gemini North astronomer.

The speed of these three objects is so extreme that if they were to rotate any faster, "they could be on the verge of destruction," say the scientists in the NOIRLab release.

The team's results can be read in this scientific article.

Share this article