(HOUSTON) — Two NASA space telescopes have discovered a “brown dwarf” — a star without the mass to burn nuclear fuel and radiate light — that’s as cold as the North Pole, according to the space agency.
“It is remarkable that even after many decades of studying the sky, we still do not have a complete inventory of the sun’s nearest neighbors,” NASA scientist Michael Werner said in a statement Friday.
The star is surprisingly close: it ranks as the fourth-closest star system to Earth’s sun at 7.2 light-years away (the closest star system, Alpha Centauri, is four light-years away).
“It’s very exciting to discover a new neighbor of our solar system that is so close,” said Kevin Luhman, a Pennsylvania State University astronomer. “And given its extreme temperature, it should tell us a lot about the atmospheres of planets, which often have similarly cold temperatures.”
The temperatures on this brown dwarf is between minus-54 and 9 degrees Fahrenheit. Brown dwarfs lack the mass to shed light or much heat, making them hard to detect without a telescope that can use an infrared lens.
Other brown dwarf stars that humans have discovered have been approximately room temperature.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio
Joe Sterling and Darran Simon, CNN
Samantha Beech, CNN
Eliza Mackintosh, CNN
Ray Sanchez, Zayn Nabbi, Euan McKirdy and Angela Dewan, CNN