Thursday, December 4, 2008


Brown Dwarfs

A star forms when a cloud of interstellar gas draws itself together through gravity, growing denser and hotter until fusion ignites. If the initial gas cloud is rotating, that rotation will speed up as it collapses inward, much like an ice skater drawing her arms in. In order to gather mass, the young protostar must somehow shed that angular momentum. It does so by spewing material in opposite directions as a bipolar outflow.

A brown dwarf is less massive than a star, so there is less gravity available to pull it together. As a result, astronomers debated whether a brown dwarf could form the same way as a star. Previous observations provided hints that they could.

- Harvard Smithsonian