Discovery of First Brown Dwarf

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In 1994 astronomers using the Palomar Observatory's 60-inch telescope photographed something that had long been suspected but never seen-- a brown dwarf.

A brown dwarf is an intermediate stage between a star and a big gas planet. It is too small to shine like a star, yet much heavier than even a giant planet like Jupiter.

The brown dwarf, known as Gliese 229b, was discovered as part of a survey of stars that astronomers hoped might have brown dwarf companions. It discovery was confirmed by the follow-up observations taken at the 200-inch Hale Telescope.

The images above show the brown dwarf (center) and the star it orbits (bright object at left). The left image is from the Palomar 60-inch telescope and the right-hand photo is from the Hubble Space Telescope. Click on the image for more information.

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