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June 8, 2012 - Strolling Through Our Solar Neighborhood with WISE

This video presents our own back yard, astronomically speaking, from a vantage point about 30 light-years away from the sun. It highlights the population of tiny brown dwarfs recently discovered by NASAís Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE (red circles). The video simulates actual positions of stars.

Astronomers are interested not only in the bright stars in our neighborhood, which are easily seen here around the sun, but also the small, dim objects we canít readily see. Finding these objects is one of the prime objectives of WISE.

As we move further away from the sun, only our neighbors within 26 light-years are highlighted. Within that volume, the brightness of the faintest, reddest stars is increased to make them more easily visible. These objects, known as M-dwarfs, are the most common type of star in the solar neighborhood.

Finally viewing from a distance of 30 light-years, circles mark the location of all of the known brown dwarfs, faint objects with too little mass to shine stably as stars do.

The blue circles show all of the previously known brown dwarfs, while the red circles show the ones that WISE has identified for the very first time.

This updated census of our solar neighborhood now shows that brown dwarfs are much more rare than stars: there are roughly 6 stars for every known brown dwarf.

The video is narrated by Davy Kirkpatrick of NASA's Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. He is lead author of a paper on the new research appearing in the Astrophysical Journal.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

WISE Brown Dwarfs Narrated M4V:
1280 x 720 (54.3 MB)

WISE Brown Dwarfs Not Narrated M4V:
1280 x 720 (48 MB)

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Last updated 6/8/12 © UC Regents

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