Artist's impression of a cold, dim brown dwarf in space. Credit: IPAC/Caltech

Scientists Spot Mystery Deep Space Object in the Milky Way–10 Things You Should Know

Some evidence clearly indicates that this object is very cold. But the brightness studied at other wavelengths suggests that it must have a higher temperature than expected. Because of this, the object received the nickname "The Accident".

Astronomers have figured out the properties of the unusual brown dwarf WISE 1534-1043, nicknamed “The Accident.” It turned out to be a very old and cold first representative of Y-type subdwarfs which are similar to the Sun. The results of the work suggest that many more dull brown dwarfs may exist in the vicinity of the Sun than previously thought.


Everything you need to know about the strange deep space object dubbed “The Accident”

What is a brown dwarf?

Brown dwarfs are intermediate between giant planets and stars. Due to the lack of mass in their depths, fusion reactions with the participation of hydrogen cannot take place, however, nuclear combustion reactions of lithium and deuterium are capable of proceeding.

Characteristics

With age, brown dwarfs cool down and their brightness decreases, making it difficult to find and study the coldest representatives of this class, whose effective temperatures are below 450 Kelvin. This can be compared to metals, which change color from bright white when heated to the maximum to deep red when cooled.

This illustration explains the difference between planets, brown dwarfs and stars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
This illustration explains the difference between planets, brown dwarfs and stars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Y-type brown dwarfs

Currently, there are 50 known Y-type brown dwarfs and their study can tell a lot about the evolution of such objects.

An unusual brown dwarf

A group of astronomers led by Davy Kirkpatrick of the California Institute of Technology has published the results of an analysis of observations of the unusual brown dwarf WISE 1534-1043 using the WISE, Spitzer, and Hubble space telescopes, as well as the Keck ground-based observatory.

Discovery and initial observations

WISE 1534-1043 was originally discovered last year by civilian scientist Dan Caselden, who analyzed observational data from the WISE Space Infrared Telescope. The analysis of the glow of the object WISE 1534-1043 confused astronomers since the data obtained at different wavelengths clearly do not agree with each other.

Temperature

Some evidence clearly indicates that this object is very cold. But the brightness studied at other waves suggests that it must have a higher temperature than expected. Because of this, the dwarf received the nickname “The Accident”.

The dark spot moving on the left is the strange deep space object nicknamed "The Accident". It is a brown dwarf with particularly curious characteristics. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Dan Caselden
The dark spot moving on the left is the strange deep space object nicknamed “The Accident”. It is a brown dwarf with particularly curious characteristics. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Dan Caselden

A deep space object dubbed “The Accident”

Researchers have determined that WISE 1534-1043 is 53.1 light-years from Earth and moves at a high lateral speed – 207.4 kilometers per second. The observational data does not fit the model of a very young brown dwarf, an exoplanet ejected from its system or an ultracold white dwarf.

Unusual characteristics

The scientists concluded that they are most likely dealing with a very old, cold (less than 500 kelvin), very poor in metals (elements heavier than hydrogen and helium) brown dwarf, which may be the first known Y-type subdwarf.

Age

This object is between 10 and 13 billion years old and may be a member of the Milky Way’s halo.

Important for science

All these properties make WISE 1534-1043 an extremely interesting object for further photometric and spectroscopic studies, in which the James Webb Space Telescope is expected to participate.


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Sources:

Greicius, T. (2021, August 31). An accidental discovery hints at a hidden population of cosmic objects. NASA.
Kirkpatrick, J. D. (n.d.). The Enigmatic Brown Dwarf WISEA J153429.75-104303.3 (a.k.a. “The Accident”). The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Mathewson, S. (2021, September 2). Strange brown dwarf ‘the accident’ hints at possible treasure trove of cosmic anomalies. Space.com.
Robitzski, D. (2021, September 1). Astronomers discover extremely strange deep space object. Futurism.
Starr, M. (n.d.). Enigmatic object called ‘the accident’ hints of an entire population of unknown stars. ScienceAlert.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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