Unistellar citizen astronomers based all over the world can take part in a new challenge in April: detecting a brown dwarf!
On April 6, 13, 20, and 28, a brown dwarf will transit (pass in front of) its star, from our view here on Earth. This brown dwarf was recently discovered by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission, and if successful, this would be the first brown dwarf detection by eVscopes!
In addition, this month marks the 3-year anniversary of TESS in space! On April 18, 2018, the TESS space telescope was launched from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
What is a brown dwarf?
Brown dwarfs are larger than planets, but smaller than stars — they are in a completely different category.
Brown dwarfs are sometimes referred to as failed stars since they don’t have enough mass to fuse hydrogen into helium, like most stars.
If you were close enough to see a brown dwarf with your eyes, it could be one of several different colors, depending on its temperature. The warmest may look red or orange, while a cooler one may appear to be magenta.
The first brown dwarf was verified in 1995. It is known as Teide 1, located 444 light years away in the Pleiades (the open star cluster, M45). For comparison, it’s 55 times more massive than Jupiter, and it’s surface temperature is about half of our Sun’s surface temperature.
Get ready to observe!
Unistellar citizen astronomers around the world will have the opportunity to observe this brown dwarf transit:
- April 6: Europe
- April 13: North & South America
- April 20: North America & Hawaii
- April 28: Japan & Oceania
Your data from this observation would help confirm exactly which star the brown dwarf is orbiting and the timing of its orbit, down to the minute!
Don’t be deterred from observing if you’re located in the city! This transit will be especially good for light-polluted areas. For transits, what you’re observing is the exoplanet or brown dwarf crossing in front of its host star, which results in the flux, or brightness, of the star to dim slightly. We’re expecting the star to dim significantly more than usual for this observation because the star is small (more like the “low mass star” than the Sun in the graphic above) and the brown dwarf is large, so it will be easier to observe from light-polluted areas.
Be sure to check out our exoplanet transit predictions page for more details on this transit including specific locations, timing, and more.
If you have any questions, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.