NASA finds 14 new, seriously chilled stars

NASA Spitzer, WISE space telescopes will ultimately spot hundreds more cold stars

nasa spitzer brown dwarfs
NASA astronomers said they have spotted 14 of the coldest stars in the known universe and they expect to find hundreds more. 

The 14 objects found by Spitzer are hundreds of light-years away and  are thought to have temperatures 350 to 620 degrees Fahrenheit that NASA called bitter cold for stars -- as cold, in some cases, as planets around other stars. 

NASA telescopes watch cosmic violence, mysteries unravel 

NASA says such "failed stars," known as brown dwarfs, have been elusive for years, but will soon start coming out of the dark in droves because of two of its satellites: Spitzer, which discovered the new objects and NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) which is in the process of scanning space with infrared wavelengths and could unearth hundreds of objects, NASA stated.  

NASA launched the Spitzer Space Telescope in 2003 as a cryogenically-cooled infrared observatory designed to look for all manner of space planets and stars in specific patches of space. NASA launched the WISE spacecraft last year to begin what NASA called a "celestial treasure hunt" that will ultimately send back millions of images of the whole sky. WISE is expected to find hundreds of similar objects, mostly because it is searching a volume of space 40 times larger than that sampled by the recent Spitzer study, NASA stated. 

According to NASA, the brown dwarfs the satellites are spotting form like stars out of collapsing balls of gas and dust, but they are puny in comparison, never collecting enough mass to ignite nuclear fusion and shine with starlight. The smallest known brown dwarfs are about 5 to 10 times the mass of our planet Jupiter -- that's as massive as some known gas-giant planets around other stars. Brown dwarfs start out with a bit of internal heat left over from their formation, but with age, they cool down, NASA stated. 

NASA says that it's possible that WISE could find an icy, Neptune-sized or bigger object in the far reaches of our solar system -- thousands of times farther from the sun than Earth. There is some speculation amongst scientists that such a cool body, if it exists, could be a brown dwarf companion to our sun, NASA stated. 

NASA astronomers published a paper on Spitzer's latest study in the recent Astronomical Journal

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8   

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