Astronomical Missing Link

By | April 22, 2007

Recent discoveries suggest that Brown Dwarfs, the get-no-respect Rodney Dangerfields of stellar types, act kind of like those mysterious pulsars with their super-powerful blasts of radiation, only on a smaller, brown-dwarf-appropriate scale:

How pulsars produce their radiation has been a problem in astrophysics for 40 years.

This is because we have little understanding of how hot, electrified gas, or plasma, behaves in the extreme conditions present at a pulsar.

Brown dwarfs are now the second class of stellar object known to produce persistent levels of extremely bright, “coherent” radiation.

Greg Hallinan from the National University of Ireland in Galway and his colleagues used the Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico to observe a very cool, rapidly rotating brown dwarf called TVLM 513-46546.

Dr Hallinan said: “Our research shows that these objects can be fascinating and dynamic systems, and may be the key to unlocking this long-standing mystery of how pulsars produce radio emissions.

“It looks like brown dwarfs are the missing step between the radio emissions we see generated at Jupiter and those we observe from pulsars”.

A while back I called on readers to submit their best ideas as to what use brown dwarfs could be put to. At the time, I believe there were some who saw this exercise as the worst kind of fanciful speculation, but now I feel that I stand vindicated.

After all, the practical uses we might have for brown dwarfs will almost certainly get us started on what do with all those pulsars!