The Milky Way has become even more mysterious and strange. More precisely, we began to understand much better what a mysterious and strange galaxy it is.
It is possible that the Milky Way is literally teeming with dead stars, some of which are almost the same age as this galaxy itself.
We owe this discovery to the amateur astronomer who enjoys staring. Dan Caselden was playing a Counter-Strike video game late one night when a program he had created to analyze NASA star exploration data discovered something strange.
A huge, cold object moving rapidly through space 50 light-years from Earth. “The system happily pointed me to a place in space where there was absolutely nothing of interest,” Keiselden told The Daily Beast. "But there was a faint object in the lower left corner, racing across the entire screen." Since Keiselden found this object without any effort, he named it Accident.
Keiselden immediately left his video game companions and immediately communicated the details of his discovery to the astronomers with whom he collaborated. These reports marked the beginning of a thorough three-year study by a team of scientists who recently began publishing the first results.
Keiselden appears to have discovered a brown dwarf star, a star 75 times the mass of Jupiter, which has never been able to ignite and become the type of celestial body that warms and illuminates our planet.
Brown dwarfs are cold and dark. Such dead stars are quite common, but they are usually slightly warmer and brighter, and are also much farther from Earth than Random. “She really stood out,” Keiselden said of his brown dwarf.
The light spectrum of Randomness indicates that it contains very little methane, which is usually found in large quantities in brown dwarfs. A shortage of methane could be a sign that Chance formed when there was very little gas in the Milky Way itself. "The randomness is very old, most likely more than 10 billion years old," said Federico Marocco, astrophysicist at the California Institute of Technology, who studied the object.
The age of randomness is surprising. Even more surprising is its proximity to Earth. “We thought there were no such old brown dwarfs, but we also thought they were incredibly rare,” Morocco said in a NASA post. - The chances of finding such a dwarf so close to the solar system were so small that it can be considered a lucky coincidence. Or maybe it says that they are more common than we thought."
In other words, if a random glance at a randomly selected area of space near the Earth allowed us to find such a strange star as Randomness, then a more comprehensive study can bring many more miracles.
"Chance shows us that the Milky Putin still has mysteries waiting to be solved," said J. Davy Kirkpatrick, another astronomer at the California Institute of Technology, who also researched Chance.
There are many clues that the Milky Way is a much stranger galaxy than we once thought. Over the past few years, scientists have noticed wandering lone planets there, floating freely throughout the galaxy, as they are not attached to any star.
They also discovered a very strange "zombie star" that apparently survived a collision with another star and is now flying through the Milky Way like a debris from an explosion. Following its trajectory, it can overcome an unimaginable distance in the cold cosmic darkness between our galaxy and the next.
New, more advanced technology could help hobbyists like Keiselden and the pros of Morocco and Kirkpatrick in their search for much stranger things in the vast expanses of space that can tell us more about our galaxy. It's worth noting that the data Keiselden used to get his first look at Randomness came from NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE.
To get a closer look, scientists used a ground-based telescope from the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, as well as NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes.
Subsequent research helped them better understand randomness. But when they were carried out, it was not possible to find new brown stars of the same color, temperature and composition as that of Randomness. “Where are the other Accidents?” Keiselden asks. "We may need new infrared telescopes to find out."
It just so happened that NASA is preparing to launch a new modern infrared telescope "James Webb" into orbit, the launch of which has been repeatedly postponed.
With this telescope at their disposal, Keyselden, Morocco and Kirkpatrick will be able to find other old and cold brown dwarfs in the sky. Now they already know what to look for. “Chance has shown us that we need to look at a wider range of possibilities when thinking about what very cold objects might look like,” Kirkpatrick said. “When searching for other subtle inhabitants of the near-solar space, we will need to cast a wider net.”
Keiselden already knows what to name the next brown dwarf he finds. “I want the new system, to which I have devoted all my free time in recent years, to find another Accident. But I'll call it Regularity."