Spitzer Space Telescope Captured Picture of Record Coldest Brown Dwarf

Astronomers were able to get a picture of a nearby star and its orbiting companion by using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Accroding to Kevin Luhman, an astronomer at the Pennsylvania State University, University Park they have discovered a new record-holder for the coldest companion imaged outside of the solar system, which is nearly as cold as Earth. Based on the infrared light that it emits, the cool object, named WD 0806-661 B, appears to have a temperature in the range of 80 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit or about 27 to 70 degrees Celsius. On the lower end, WD 0806-661 B offers a rather pleasant terrestrial temperature and is not even as warm as the human body. Researchers ballpark WD 0806-661 B’s mass between six and nine Jupiters,  which  means it could still  qualify as a planet, albeit a particularly hefty one made mostly of gas.

Instead, they suspect it’s a type of failed star, called a brown dwarf. WD 0806-661 B probably belongs to a recently discovered new class of objects called Y dwarfs, the coldest category of brown dwarfs. Those objects don’t orbit stars and instead are floating by themselves in space, unlike WD 0806-661 B. Together, WISE and Spitzer are proving complementary in tracking down ever-cooler brown dwarfs, all the way down to the Y class.