An anonymous reader writes: Astronomer Kevin Luhman just found the 7th closest star to the sun. It's a mere 7.2 light-years away, discovered using NASA's Spitzer and WISE telescopes. How could it exist so close for so long without us knowing? It's a brown dwarf — barely a star at all. 'Brown dwarfs are star-like objects that are more massive than planets, but not quite massive enough to ignite sustained fusion in their cores. Hydrogen fusion is what powers the Sun, and makes it hot; it’s the mighty pressure of the Sun’s core that makes that happen. Brown dwarfs don’t have the oomph needed to keep that going.' This small almost-star is downright chilly at around 225-260 Kelvin. That's -48 to -13 C (or -54 to 9 F). As Phil Plait points out, that's not much different from the temperature in the freezer in your kitchen. He adds, 't implies this object is very old, too, because it would’ve been a few thousands degrees when it formed, and would take at least a billion years to cool down to its current chilly temperature. It’s hard to determine how old it actually is, but it’s most likely 1-10 billion years old. It has a very low mass, too, probably between 3 and 10 times the mass of Jupiter. That’s pretty lightweight even for a brown dwarf. And here’s another amazing thing about it: It might be a planet. What I mean is, it may have formed around a star like a planet does, then got ejected by gravitational interactions with other planets.'
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