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Brown dwarf stars - Teide 1, the first brown dwarf to be verified in 1995 - Space Art Illustration
 

Teide 1

This is how Teide 1 might appear from the surface of a hypothetical, Mars-like planet. 

Discovered in 1995, Teide 1 is a type of mysterious object called a brown dwarf*. Bigger than a planet, but smaller than a star, Teide 1 is about 400 light years from the Earth in the Pleiades star cluster. It is thought that Teide 1 has the mass equivalent of about 55 Jupiters, which is considered large for a brown dwarf. Teide 1 is massive enough, and hence hot enough, to sustain lithium fusion in its core, but is unable to initiate hydrogen fusion like our sun. Teide 1 is probably only about 120 million years old (compared to our sun's 4.5 billion years) and burns at a temperature of 4,000 F, less than half as hot as the surface of our sun.

In this image a hypothetical young planet orbits Teide 1 from distance of about four million miles. The planet has acquired enough atmosphere to host clouds, but it is still very early in its evolution. Teide 1 looms large in the sky, but in fact Teide 1's diameter is only about twice that of Jupiter's. All brown dwarfs are roughly the size of Jupiter--the more massive brown dwarfs are simply more dense. As for this planet, it is very unlikely that life will ever evolve here due to its host's relatively short life span; in just another billion years Teide 1 will have cooled to a modest 1,700 F.

* Brown dwarfs have also been referred to as "failed stars" and "super planets."

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Copyright Walter B. Myers. All rights reserved.

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