But can we make the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs?
March 22, 2006 7:53 PM Subscribe
Howdy, neighbor! A direct detection of a brown dwarf only 12.7 light years away (practically next door in interstellar terms) adds another substellar object to the list of those relatively close by. While not quite the closest such object yet detected, it’s notable for being pinpointed with a combination of ground-based adaptive optics and Simultaneous Differential Imaging, a special set of filters designed to subtract out starlight while leaving the light from substellar objects. This could be an important milestone in the ongoing quest to directly detect extrasolar planets, as opposed to finding their traces indirectly via methods such as stellar wobble or gravitational microlensing. Direct detection, among other things, makes it much easier to analyze planetary atmospheres for traces of life. An object that could be as small as 9 Jupiter masses, less than 13 light years away, is a heck of a good step forward, especially considering that the very first indirect detections of extrasolar planets weren't made until the 1990’s, and I recall serious arguments being made in the 1980’s that they did not, in fact, exist.
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