A hybrid team of astronomers and volunteers who participate in an initiative known as Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 has uncovered the existence of more than 100 cool worlds that are close to the Sun. These objects are larger than planets but smaller than stars.
Additional research conducted by using the W.M. Keck Observatory located on Maunakea in Hawaii and new data infers that several of the new worlds are among the coolest ones that have been found, while only a handful are close to the temperature of Earth, favoring the existence of water clouds.
Tracking down new objects
The discovery and identification of new objects are essential to improve knowledge related to the evolution of the universe. With the help of the Backyard Worlds Project, astronomers have been able to tie a gap in the case of low-temperature brown dwarfs by finding a missing link.
The cool worlds are remarkable, as they offer a glimpse at the way in which planets could form beyond the solar system. Researchers can also use them to estimate the number of worlds that could be found in the interstellar space around the Sun.
Advanced tools and citizens science
An initial set of data was collected by using the Near-Infrared Echellette Spectrometer, also known as NIRES. Brown dwarfs are situated at the crossroad between massive planets and petite stars as they are very large but lack the elements needed to sustain the nuclear reactions which power a regular star.
More than 100,000 citizen scientists surveyed images collected by space telescopes in an attempt to track the movements which mark the presence of dwarfs and the planet. More than 1,5000 stars and brown dwarfs have been spotted by volunteers since the start of the project, with the latest batch also being the coldest one yet.
A paper was published in a scientific journal.