Brown dwarf (artist’s concept)

This is an artist’s representation of a brown dwarf. This class of object is too large to be a planet (and did not form in the same way), but is too small to be a star because it cannot sustain nuclear fusion, since it is less massive than even the smallest stars. A brown dwarf is likely to be marked by wind-driven horizontal bands of thick clouds that may alternate with relatively cloud-free bands, giving the object a striped appearance. Whirling storm systems as big as terrestrial continents, or even small planets, might exist.

The name ‘brown dwarf’ is actually a misnomer because the object would typically appear red to the naked eye. It is brightest in infrared light. Many brown dwarfs have binary companions. But as they age, the binary system drifts apart and each dwarf goes its separate way, according to a recent Hubble Space Telescope study.

The background stars in this illustration are a science visualisation assembled from the Gaia spacecraft star catalogue. The synthesised stars are accurate in terms of position, brightness, and colour. Because this is not an image of the Milky Way, missing are glowing nebulae and dark dust clouds.

[Image description: This artist’s representation shows a brown dwarf, an object more massive than a planet but smaller than a star. The dwarf is a cherry-red sphere. It has horizontal stripes of various shades of red that are cloud bands. In the dark background there are myriad stars that are inside our Milky Way galaxy.]


NASA, ESA, J. Olmsted (STScI)

About the Image

Release date:21 March 2024, 15:00
Related releases:heic2405
Size:3840 x 2160 px

About the Object


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