Although astronomers often refer to brown dwarfs as "failed stars," scientists at the University of Delaware have discovered that at least one of these dim celestial objects can emit powerful flashes of light.
A research team led by John Gizis, professor in UD's Department of Physics and Astronomy, discovered an "ultracool" brown dwarf known as 2MASS 0335+23, with a temperature of only 4400°F that can generate flares stronger than the sun's. Gizis reported on the finding on June 13 at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in San Diego.
"This brown dwarf is very young by star standards -- only 23 million years old," Gizis said. "It has lots of flares that are as hot as or hotter than the flares coming off full-fledged stars. This shows that the warmer brown dwarfs can generate flares from magnetic field energy just like stars. Our work shows, however, that colder brown dwarfs cannot generate flares even though they also have magnetic fields."