eso9709-en-us — Science Release
A Faint and Lonely Brown Dwarf in the Solar Vicinity
28 April 1997: Brown Dwarfs are star-like objects which are too small to become real stars, yet too large to be real planets. Their mass is too small to ignite those nuclear processes which are responsible for the large energies and high temperatures of stars, but it is much larger than that of the planets we know in our solar system. Until now, very few Brown Dwarfs have been securely identified as such. Two are members of double-star systems, and a few more are located deep within the Pleiades star cluster. Now, however, Maria Teresa Ruiz of the Astronomy Department at Universidad de Chile (Santiago de Chile), using telescopes at the ESO La Silla observatory, has just discovered one that is all alone and apparently quite near to us. Contrary to the others which are influenced by other objects in their immediate surroundings, this new Brown Dwarf is unaffected and will thus be a perfect object for further investigations that may finally allow us to better understand these very interesting celestial bodies. It has been suggested that Brown Dwarfs may constitute a substantial part of the unseen dark matter in our Galaxy. This discovery may therefore also have important implications for this highly relevant research area.