Mysterious objects called brown dwarfs are sometimes called "failed stars." They are too small to fuse hydrogen in their cores, the way most stars do, but also too large to be classified as planets. But a new study in the journal Nature suggests they succeed in creating powerful auroral displays, similar to the kind seen around the magnetic poles on Earth.
Harding, working as part of Hallinan's group while pursuing his doctoral studies, found that there was also periodic variability in the optical wavelength of light coming from brown dwarfs that pulse at radio frequencies. He published these findings in the Astrophysical Journal. Harding built an instrument called an optical high-speed photometer, which looks for changes in the light intensity of celestial objects, to examine this phenomenon.
In this new study, researchers examined brown dwarf LSRJ1835+3259, located about 20 light-years from Earth. Scientists studied it using some of the world's most powerful telescopes -- the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array, Socorro, New Mexico, and the W.M. Keck Observatory's telescopes in Hawaii -- in addition to the Hale Telescope at the Palomar Observatory in California.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.