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NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has eyed its first cool brown dwarf: a tiny, ultra-cold star floating all alone in space.

 
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11/14/2010 04:13 PM

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NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has eyed its first cool brown dwarf: a tiny, ultra-cold star floating all alone in space.
NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has eyed its first cool brown dwarf: a tiny, ultra-cold star floating all alone in space.

WISE is scanning the whole sky in infrared light, picking up the glow of not just brown dwarfs but also asteroids, stars and galaxies. It has sent millions of images down to Earth, in which infrared light of different wavelengths is color-coded in the images.

"The brown dwarfs jump out at you like big, fat, green emeralds," said Amy Mainzer, the deputy project scientist of WISE at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Mainzer, who makes jewelry in her spare time, explained that the brown dwarfs appear like green gems in WISE images because the methane in their atmospheres absorbs the infrared light that has been coded blue, and because they are too faint to give off the infrared light that is color-coded red. The only color left is green.

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[link to www.jpl.nasa.gov]