Could there be a brown dwarf in our solar system?

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Is it possible that a brown dwarf object could be orbiting our star and undetected so far by wise surveys?

The nemesis theory proposes that a low mass star or brown dwarf in highly elliptical orbit is a companion to our sun as a solution to the cyclical mass extinction problem (http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2015/11/the-next-mass-extinction/413884/) and (http://www.space.com/22538-nemesis-star.html). Scientists noticed that some mass extinctions follow a seemingly cyclical pattern, so researchers proposed that the orbit of a small companion star (or a brown dwarf) was disturbing comets or asteroids as it approached aphelion and flinging them towards the earth.

As interesting as this would be, WISE's infrared scans of the sky have revealed nothing and there is currently no evidence supporting the theory. Furthermore the orbit of any companion would have to be very large and would therefore be very unstable and would likely be detectable. The Astrobiologist David Morrison stated of the theory: "(T)he Sun is not part of a binary star system. There has never been any evidence to suggest a companion. The idea has been disproved by several infrared sky surveys, most recently the WISE mission. If there were a brown dwarf companion, these sensitive infrared telescopes would have detected it."

NASA Discovers Coldest Brown Dwarf Neighbor of the Sun

A brown dwarf as cold as the North Pole has been discovered lurking remarkably close to our solar system, and it appears to be the coldest of its kind yet found, scientists say.

Using NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers discovered the dim, "failed star" lurking just 7.2 light-years away, making it the fourth closest system to our sun.

"It's very exciting to discover a new neighbor of our solar system that is so close," Kevin Luhman, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University's Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds, said in a statement. "And given its extreme temperature, it should tell us a lot about the atmospheres of planets, which often have similarly cold temperatures." [Brown Dwarf Photos: Failed Stars and Stellar Misfits]

Brown dwarfs are sometimes called failed stars because they have many of the elements of that make up stars, but they lack the huge mass needed to kick off nuclear fusion in their core. As a result, these objects don't radiate starlight and they sometimes resemble planets. Some are even cool enough to have atmospheres much like gas giants.

While brown dwarfs are hidden in images taken in the visible spectrum, infrared telescopes like WISE can pick up the meager glow of brown dwarfs.

Luhman and colleagues first spotted the object in WISE data. It appeared to be moving quite fast, hinting that it was close by. The team then investigated the object using Spitzer and the Gemini South telescope on Cerro Pachon in Chile to measure its distance and temperature.

"It is remarkable that even after many decades of studying the sky, we still do not have a complete inventory of the sun's nearest neighbors," Michael Werner, the project scientist for Spitzer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement.

Dubbed WISE J085510.83-071442.5, our newfound neighbor is now the record-holder for the coldest brown dwarf, with a temperature between minus 54 and 9 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 48 to minus 13 degrees Celsius), Luhman and colleagues say. The previous record holders were more tepid, chilling only to room temperature.

The findings were described April 21 in The Astrophysical Journal.

Last year, Luhman used WISE data to reveal a pair of warmer brown dwarfs with a possible exoplanet 6.5 light years away. At such a close distance, that system, dubbed WISE J104915.57-531906, is the third nearest to the sun. The two closer systems are Barnard's star, a red dwarf 6 light-years away that was first seen in 1916, and Alpha Centauri, whose two main stars form a binary pair about 4.4 light-years away.

A possible super-Earth or Brown Dwarf in our Solar System

Astronomers quietly submitted a research paper claiming they may have found a large planet on the far fringes of our solar system.

Astronomers working with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have discovered what they claim could be another large planet on the fringes of our solar system.

The brighter the object the more likely it would have been discovered previously. In order to be roughly the same distance as the Alpha Centauri system, 1.34 parsecs away, the object would have to be an M2 star. Which seems very unlikely that it would remain undiscovered until now.

What confuses me is why this object would need to be as large as a "super-Earth" or Brown Dwarf? Could it not also be considerably smaller, say on the order of a Pluto-sized object for example, and be much closer? In order to be the size of a Brown Dwarf it would have to have an orbit of ≈20,000 AU according to the temperature-distance diagram they provided in their paper (referenced below), which seems to be a bit extreme. To be a "super-Earth" the object would need to have an orbit of ≈300 AU. My question is, could not the object be considerably smaller, and therefore much closer - similar to Sedna or Pluto in size and at distance of ≈100 AU?

This is certainly going to feed the Nemesis believers if it is confirmed that this object is as large as they suspect.

Two telescopes are better than one

Spitzer observed the binary system containing the brown dwarf in July 2015, during the last two weeks of the space telescope's microlensing campaign for that year.
While Spitzer is over 1 AU away from Earth in an Earth-trailing orbit around the sun, Swift is in a low Earth orbit encircling our planet. Swift also saw the binary system in late June 2015 through microlensing, representing the first time this telescope had observed a microlensing event. But Swift is not far enough away from ground-based telescopes to get a significantly different view of this particular event, so no parallax was measured between the two. This gives scientists insights into the limits of the telescope's capabilities for certain types of objects and distances.

"Our simulations suggest that Swift could measure this parallax for nearby, less massive objects, including 'free-floating planets,' which do not orbit stars," Shvartzvald said.

By combining data from these space-based and ground-based telescopes, researchers determined that the newly discovered brown dwarf is between 30 and 65 Jupiter masses. They also found that the brown dwarf orbits a K dwarf, a type of star that tends to have about half the mass of the sun. Researchers found two possible distances between the brown dwarf and its host star, based on available data: 0.25 AU and 45 AU. The 0.25 AU distance would put this system in the brown dwarf desert.

"In the future, we hope to have more observations of microlensing events from multiple viewing perspectives, allowing us to probe further the characteristics of brown dwarfs and planetary systems," said Geoffrey Bryden, JPL scientist and co-author of the study.

JPL manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena, California. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. NASA's Swift satellite was launched in November 2004 and is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Massive brown dwarf detected by astronomers

Transit light curve folded to the orbital period of EPIC 212036875 b. The K2 photometric data is indicated with the red points, and the best-fitted transit model with the solid black line. The residuals of the fit are shown in the lower panel. Credit: Persson et al., 2019.

An international team of astronomers has found a new brown dwarf, one of the most massive objects of this type discovered to date. The newly detected brown dwarf, designated EPIC 212036875 b, turns out to be about 50 times more massive than Jupiter. The finding is detailed in a paper published June 13 on arXiv.org.

Brown dwarfs are intermediate objects between planets and stars. Astronomers generally agree that they are substellar objects occupying the mass range between 13 and 80 Jupiter masses. Notably, out of the 2,000 brown dwarfs so far detected, only about 400 of them were found to be circling around stars.

Observations have shown that brown dwarfs with masses between 35 and 55 Jupiter masses orbiting their hosts at a relatively close distance (less than 3.0 AU) are extremely rare and difficult to find. This so-called "brown dwarf desert" is constantly studied by astronomers using various techniques, aiming to find other examples of this peculiar type.

Now, an international group of researchers led by Carina M. Persson of Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden reports the finding of a new massive brown dwarf, apparently another representative of this desert. The new object, designated EPIC 212036875 b, was identified by NASA's prolonged Kepler mission known as K2, and Persson's team confirmed its brown dwarf nature using ground-based telescopes.

"In this paper, we report the independent discovery and observations of EPIC 212036875 b performed by the KESPRINT consortium," the paper reads as the detection of this object was almost simultaneously reported by other group of astronomers.

According to the study, EPIC 212036875 b is about 51 times as massive as Jupiter, but approximately 17 percent smaller than our solar system's gas giant. These values imply the brown dwarf's mean density at a level of around 108 g/cm 3 .

Observations conducted by Persson's team found that EPIC 212036875 b orbits its host approximately every 5.17 days at a distance of about 0.06 AU from it. These results confirm that the newfound object represents the brown dwarf desert. Such a close orbit also means that the brown dwarf should be relatively hot—its equilibrium temperature is estimated to be about 1,450 K.

The study reveals that the host, EPIC 212036875, is a slightly evolved star of spectral type F7 V, about 41 percent larger and 15 percent more massive that the sun. Its age was estimated to be around 5.1 billion years and its effective temperature was measured to be 6,230 K.

In concluding remarks, the researchers ponder the possible formation and evolution scenarios for EPIC 212036875 b. They assume that this brown dwarf most likely formed due to gravitational instabilities in a protoplanetary disc.

"We argue that EPIC 212036875 b formed via gravitational disc instabilities in the outer part of the disc, followed by a quick migration. Orbital tidal circularisation may have started early in its history for a brief period when the brown dwarf's radius was larger," the astronomers concluded.

Nibiru

Enter Zecharia Sitchin. Zecharia Sitchin was a historian who translated ancient Sumerian texts. The translations, no matter how hard he tried, always defined the establishment of the Sumerians as cultivated from the “Gods”. Of which, the “Gods” came from a planet within the solar system, known as the 󈫼th planet” or the “tenth planet” depending on how you look at the writings. Of which Sitchin gave the name “Nibiru”.

He wrote a complete library of books on the subject.

The core premise he has made in his writings is that there is a 10th Planet (again, including Pluto) in our solar system with an elliptical orbit of about 3600 of our years.

People from Nibiru came to Earth and discovered the gold they needed to help repair their atmosphere and they began mining it. Much of the knowledge of these ancient people, which they knew because the Anunnaki (those who from heaven to Earth came) told them, has come true, including the color and size of Neptune and Uranus, and the very existence of the outer planets, long before our telescopes could find them. Scientists even suspect another large object in the Kuiper Belt, which might be Nibiru.

Perhaps Nibiru isn’t a planet in orbit around our sun, but rather a binary companion to our star. If so, then that would explain a lot.

Volunteers spot almost 100 cold brown dwarfs near our sun

Citizen scientists have spotted almost 100 of our sun's nearest neighbors.

In a new study, members of the public — including both professional scientists and volunteers — discovered 95 brown dwarfs (celestial objects too big to be considered planets and too small to be considered stars) near our sun through the NASA-funded citizen science project Backyard Worlds: Planet 9. They made this discovery with the help of astronomers using the National Science Foundations National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory.

"These cool worlds offer the opportunity for new insights into the formation and atmospheres of planets beyond the solar system," Aaron Meisner from the National Science Foundation's NOIRLab and the lead author of the new paper, said in a statement. "This collection of cool brown dwarfs also allows us to accurately estimate the number of free-floating worlds roaming interstellar space near the sun."

"This paper is evidence that the solar neighborhood is still uncharted territory and citizen scientists are excellent astronomical cartographers," coauthor Jackie Faherty of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, said in a NASA statement. "Mapping the coldest brown dwarfs down to the lowest masses gives us key insights into the low-mass star-formation process while providing a target list for detailed studies of the atmospheres of Jupiter analogs."

Brown dwarfs are unusual celestial objects — much heavier than planets but not massive enough to become stars. The celestial objects can be seriously hot (think thousands of degrees Fahrenheit), but these 95 newly-discovered neighbors are surprisingly cool. Some of these weird worlds are even relatively close to Earth's temperature and could be cool enough to have water clouds in their atmospheres, according to the statement.

In 2014, scientists discovered the coldest-known brown dwarf, called WISE 0855, using data from NASA's WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) mission. This chilly brown dwarf is just about 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 degrees Celsius), much colder than any other discovered brown dwarf. Because of these temperatures, some have even suspected that the brown dwarf might actually be an exoplanet.

So, with these new discoveries, researchers hope that they may learn a bit more about why these brown dwarfs are so cold, or whether they're really brown dwarfs at all.

"Our new discoveries help connect the dots between 0855 and the other known brown dwarfs," NASA Goddard astrophysicist Marc Kuchner, the principal investigator of Backyard Worlds and the citizen science officer for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said in the same statement.

Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, which is hosted on the citizen-science platform Zooniverse, uses data from NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) satellite between 2010 and 2011 and all-sky observations collected by the same satellite under its previous name WISE.

"​These Backyard Worlds discoveries show that members of the public can play an important role in reshaping our scientific understanding of our solar neighborhood," Meisner said in the same NASA statement.

The results of this study will be published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Could there be a brown dwarf in our solar system? - Astronomy

The idea of a new planet being discovered in our Solar System is pretty exciting. Even more so because of the many theories about "planet-x" or "Nibiru" being associated with space aliens and the doomsday prophecies of 2012.

Scientists at places like NASA and famous observatories have deflected inquiries about the discovery for a few years now, mainly because they feared being associated with these "fringe" theories. But like it or not -- it has happened. Well. according to a team of Spanish artronomers who call themselves the StarViewer Team.

The group made the rounds of all the news web sites in the past two weeks, claiming they discovered something very significant. It's almost twice the size of Jupiter and just beyond our furthest planetoid, Pluto. Although it's not a planet, it appears to have planets or large satellites encircling it. It's what astronomers call a "brown dwarf star" and its official name is "G1.9".

What's a Brown Dwarf Star?

First we'll explain WHAT these astronomers have discovered. Then we'll discuss HOW they discovered it.

At the risk of being scientifically vague, I'll try to explain the current understanding of how stars and planets form in space.

All matter attracts other matter. A larger mass will attract smaller masses towards it. In space this results in growing clouds of matter that tend to clump together and attract more matter. Since most of the matter in space is gaseous, these clouds eventually get so dense that they collapse into dense gaseous spheres. When they do this there is usually some "left over" matter that forms a ring around the sphere.

If there is enough matter in a sphere of hydrogen, for example, it can cause so much compression at the shpere's core that the hydrogen atoms begin to fuse together and a fusion-reaction ignites a new born star. In this reaction two hydrogen atoms join together to form one helium atom and release extra energy as radiation.

Scientists believe that the minimum mass needed to ignite a sun is about 13 times the known mass of the planet Jupiter -- written as "13MJ." If the mass is lower than this, the pressure in the core is not enough to ignite and the sphere will be hot ball of gas called a "brown dwarf."

As a new star spins, the disk surrounding it gradually cools and the matter forms heavier elements like metals and minerals. These "rocks" eventually clump together and form solid spheres called planets.

Sometimes a solid sphere will attract some of the gas that is in the disk and this will result in a gaseous giant, like Jupiter and Saturn, which has a solid core but a thick gaseous atmosphere. These "gas giant" planets can be very massive but, because of their solid cores, they will never ignite and become stars.

This newly discovered "brown dwarf" is believed to have formed from the same condensed matter that gave birth to our Sun. It is believed that, after the large planets formed around the Sun, they pushed it to the edge of the Solar system where it formed a sphere about 1.9MJ -- well below the mass needed to ignite it as a "sun."

The theory of a companion sun is not new. It has often been described as Nemesis, after the Greek figure in mythology.

The mythological Nemesis was the spirit of divine retribution against those who succumb to hubris, vengeful fate personified as a remorseless goddess. The name Nemesis is related to the Greek word meaning "to give what is due".

Nemesis is now often used as a term to describe one's worst enemy, normally someone or something that is the exact opposite of oneself but is also somehow similar. For example, Professor Moriarty is frequently described as the nemesis of Sherlock Holmes.

Many suns that we observe in the galaxy are part of binary systems or double stars. There is debate about how two suns form from a single condensed cloud of matter. Some believe that they both form at the same time others believe they split following the creation of one huge sun.

Sometimes both spheres are capable of fusion and both suns shine brightly, encircling each other around an imaginary point call the barycenter. Sometimes only one sun attains 13MJ and ignites, while its smaller companion, the brown dwarf, glows dimly and radiates heat. Astronomers usually can only see the brightest of the two, but because they both circle around a common barycenter, the wobble reveals the mass of the unseen companion.

We are close to our Sun and within its gravitational influence. So as we are travel through space, it appears to us that the G1.9 is moving in an elipse between our furthest planetoid, Pluto, and the edge of our Solar system, near the Oort Cloud.

The newly discovered brown dwarf is reported to be located just about 60 to 66 AU (1 AU=the distance from the Sun to Earth) from us (its parigee), currently in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius. Because of periodic gravitational disturbances in areas of space further out, specifically in the Oort Cloud, the Spanish group of astronomers believe G1.9 travels in an elliptical orbit extending possibly hundreds of AU beyond the furthest known planets (its apogee). Its position just beyond Pluto suggests it is at its closest approach to the Sun and Earth.

Space appears relatively free of debris [see image above] inside the planetary orbits. This is because the gravitational pull of each planet (a large mass) effectively collects the interplanetary debris (small mass). But there are exceptions.

Between Mars and Jupiter you will see a ring of debris called The Asteroid Belt. It is believed that a planet once orbited in this area before it was pulverized by some type of impact. Many theorists believe this was caused by a rogue planet that entered the Solar System -- again hinting at the existence of some unknown member of our planetary system.

Beyond the furthest planetoid, Pluto, there is a large ring of debris called the Kuiper Belt. While the asteroid belt is composed primarily of rock and metal, the Kuiper belt objects are composed largely of frozen volatiles (termed "ices"), such as methane, ammonia and water.

As we get to the edge of the Solar System we enter another debris zone, the Oort Cloud. The Oort is not a band of debris but rather a spherical shell that surrounds the Solar System and extends out to the edge of the Sun's gravitational field. This region is thought to contain frozen clumps of water, methane, ethane, carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide. It's also the birth place of comets. However, the discovery of the object 1996-PW, an asteroid in an orbit more typical of a long-period comet, suggests that the cloud may also be home to rocky objects.

Jupiter and Saturn are extremely massive and have such strong gravity that they attract meteors and comets entering the planetary zone of our Solar System. They protect smaller planets like our Earth from impacts, acting like a fly-paper for meteors, comets and asteroids.

In August of 2009, Jupiter captured a large asteroid that entered the planetary zone unexpectedly, despite the efforts of astronomers to track these dangerous objects. It is believed that this asteroid was perturbed by the trajectory of G1.9, which until now, was not recognized and accounted for.

Note: The dark spot [ top right] in the northern hemisphere of Jupiter where the asteroid impact was.

How it was discovered. the controversy

You might well ask why astronomers have never detected this object before. In fact they did. G1.9 was first identified as a "supernova remnant" in 1984 by Dave Green of the University of Cambridge and later studied in greater detail with NRAO's Very Large Array radio telescope in 1985. Because it was unusually small for a supernova it was thought to be young -- less than about 1000 years old.

But in 2007, X-ray observations made with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory revealed that the object was much larger than the last time it was observed! It had grown in size by 16%. Puzzled by this observation, the Very Large Array repeated its observations of 23 years ago and verified that it had increased in size considerably. Knowing that supernova do not expand this quickly, unless they have just exploded, they explained that G1.9 must be a "very young" supernova -- perhaps not more than 150 years old. But no record of a visible supernova has been found corresponding to that historical period (about the time of the American Civil War).

Spanish astronomers have tracked this object with great interest because they were anticipating its appearance. Gravitational anomalies have been appearing in the Oort Cloud for some time, suggesting the perturbations were caused by a nearby object with considerable mass. The announcement that G1.9 had increased in size was no mystery to them. It is exactly what they would expect as the object moved closer to Earth.

The object, G1.9 [above right] is currently located in the direction of our Galaxy's center, Sagittarius, which glows bright in this infrared spectrum image. Because of the bright background G1.9 is not visible in normal light wavelengths.

Brown dwarfs hiding in plain sight in our solar neighbourhood

An illustration showing the relative sizes of brown dwarfs as compared to stars and gas giant planets. Illustration credit: Carnegie Institution for Science. Cool brown dwarfs are a hot topic in astronomy right now. Smaller than stars and bigger than giant planets, they hold promise for helping us understand both stellar evolution and planet formation. New work from a team including Carnegie’s Jonathan Gagné has discovered several ultracool brown dwarfs in our own solar neighbourhood. Their findings are published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Brown dwarfs are sometimes called failed stars. They are too small to sustain the hydrogen fusion process that powers stars, so after forming they slowly cool, contract, and dim over time. Their temperatures can range from nearly as hot as a star to as cool as a planet and their masses also range between star-like and giant-planet-like.

They’re fascinating to astronomers for a variety of reasons, mostly because they can serve as a bridge between stars and planets and how the former influences the latter, particular when it comes to composition and atmospheric properties. But much about them remains unknown.

“Everyone will benefit from the study of brown dwarfs, because they can often be found in isolation, which means that we can more easily gather precise data on their properties without a bright star blinding our instruments,” Gagné said, who is also a collaborator of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx) at Université de Montréal.

Discovering new brown dwarfs will help scientists to better quantify the frequency at which they occur both in our solar neighbourhood and beyond. Knowing the abundance and distribution of brown dwarfs provides key information on the distribution of mass in the universe, and on the mechanism of brown dwarf formation, for example, whether they form in isolation or instead are ejected from larger planetary systems.

To that end, the team, led by Jasmin Robert of Université de Montréal, believed that although hundreds of ultracool brown dwarfs have already been discovered, the techniques used to identify them were overlooking those with more-unusual compositions, which would not show up in the color-based surveys generally used.

So they surveyed 28 percent of the sky and discovered 165 ultracool brown dwarfs, about a third of which have unusual compositions or other peculiarities. When talking about brown dwarfs, ultracool means temperatures under about 3,500 °F or 2,200 K.

“The search for ultracool brown dwarfs in the neighbourhood of our own solar system is far from over,” said Gagné. “Our findings indicate that many more are hiding in existing surveys.”

Huge New Planet (Brown Dwarf?) Discovered in Our Solar System - Tyche Echoes of Planet X or "Nibiru"

Scientists believe they may have found a new planet in the far reaches of the solar system, up to four times the mass of Jupiter.

Its orbit would be thousands of times further from the Sun than the Earth's - which could explain why it has so far remained undiscovered.
Data which could prove the existence of Tyche, a gas giant in the outer Oort Cloud, is set to be released later this year - although some believe proof has already been garnered by Nasa with its pace telescope, Wise, and is waiting to be pored over.

A new world? Astronomers believe a huge gas giant may be within the remote Oort Cloud region

Prof Daniel Whitmire from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette believes the data may prove Tyche's existence within two years.

He told the Independent: 'If it does, [fellow astrophysicist Prof John Matese] and I will be doing cartwheels. And that's not easy at our age.'

He added he believes it will mainly be made of hydrogen and helium, with an atmosphere like Jupiter's, with spots and rings and clouds, adding: 'You'd also expect it to have moons. All the outer planets have them.'

He believes the planet is so huge, it will ahve a raised temperature left from its formation that will make it far higher than others, such as Pluto, at -73C, as 'it takes an object this size a long time to cool off'.

Isolated: The Oort Cloud, where Tyche is believed to be, is a sphere with a radius of one light year

He and Prof Matese first suggested Tyche existed because of the angle comets were arriving, with a fifth of the expected number since 1898 entering higher than expected.

However, Tyche - if it exists - should also dislodge comets closer to home, from the inner Oort Cloud, but they have not been seen.

If confirmed, the status and name of the new planet - which would become the ninth and potentially the largest - would then have to be agreed by the International Astronomical Union.

Currently named Tyche, from the Greek goddess that governed the destiny of a city, its name may have to change, as it originated from a theory which has now been largely abandoned.

Scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have released comprehensive answers relating to a recent proposal by astrophysicists John Matese and Daniel Whitmire about the existence of a large planet in the outer part of the solar system.

The JPL statement follows recent reports about the proposals by Matese and Whitmore that were published in the November 2010 edition of the scientific journal Icarus. They had proposed the existence of a binary companion to our sun, larger than Jupiter, in the long-hypothesized Oort cloud - a distant repository of small icy bodies at the edge of our solar system. The researchers used the name "Tyche" for the hypothetical planet.

The NASA statement explains that the Matese/Whitmore paper argues that evidence for the planet would have been recorded by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) .

WISE is a NASA mission, launched in December 2009, which scanned the entire celestial sky at four infrared wavelengths about 1.5 times. It captured more than 2.7 million images of objects in space, ranging from faraway galaxies to asteroids and comets relatively close to Earth. Recently, WISE completed an extended mission, allowing it to finish a complete scan of the asteroid belt, and two complete scans of the more distant universe, in two infrared bands. So far, the mission's discoveries of previously unknown objects include an ultra-cold star or brown dwarf, 20 comets, 134 near-Earth objects (NEOs), and more than 33,000 asteroids in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter.

FAQs

Q: When could data from WISE confirm or rule out the existence of the hypothesized planet Tyche?

A: It is too early to know whether WISE data confirms or rules out a large object in the Oort cloud. Analysis over the next couple of years will be needed to determine if WISE has actually detected such a world or not. The first 14 weeks of data, being released in April 2011, are unlikely to be sufficient. The full survey, scheduled for release in March 2012, should provide greater insight. Once the WISE data are fully processed, released and analyzed, the Tyche hypothesis that Matese and Whitmire propose will be tested.

Q: Is it a certainty that WISE would have observed such a planet if it exists?

A: It is likely but not a foregone conclusion that WISE could confirm whether or not Tyche exists. Since WISE surveyed the whole sky once, then covered the entire sky again in two of its infrared bands six months later, WISE would see a change in the apparent position of a large planet body in the Oort cloud over the six-month period. The two bands used in the second sky coverage were designed to identify very small, cold stars (or brown dwarfs) -- which are much like planets larger than Jupiter, as Tyche is hypothesized to be.

Q: If Tyche does exist, why would it have taken so long to find another planet in our solar system?

A: Tyche would be too cold and faint for a visible light telescope to identify. Sensitive infrared telescopes could pick up the glow from such an object, if they looked in the right direction. WISE is a sensitive infrared telescope that looks in all directions.

Q: Why is the hypothesized object dubbed "Tyche," and why choose a Greek name when the names of other planets derive from Roman mythology?

A: In the 1980s, a different companion to the sun was hypothesized. That object, named for the Greek goddess "Nemesis," was proposed to explain periodic mass extinctions on the Earth. Nemesis would have followed a highly elliptical orbit, perturbing comets in the Oort Cloud roughly every 26 million years and sending a shower of comets toward the inner solar system. Some of these comets would have slammed into Earth, causing catastrophic results to life. Recent scientific analysis no longer supports the idea that extinctions on Earth happen at regular, repeating intervals. Thus, the Nemesis hypothesis is no longer needed. However, it is still possible that the sun could have a distant, unseen companion in a more circular orbit with a period of a few million years -- one that would not cause devastating effects to terrestrial life. To distinguish this object from the malevolent "Nemesis," astronomers chose the name of Nemesis's benevolent sister in Greek mythology, "Tyche."

Following its successful survey, WISE was put into hibernation in February 2011. Analysis of WISE data continues. A preliminary public release of the first 14 weeks of data is planned for April 2011, and the final release of the full survey is planned for March 2012.

JPL manages and operates the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The principal investigator, Edward Wright, is at UCLA. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena (Caltech). Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

NASA Shuts Down Prolific Sky-Mapping Space Telescope WISE (Why?)

A prolific sky-mapping telescope that has spent more than a year scanning the heavens for asteroids, comets and other cosmic objects received its last command today (Feb. 17).

NASA shut down its WISE spacecraft – short for Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer – at 3:00 p.m. EST (2000 UTC) today. The mission's principal investigator, Ned Wright of the University of California in Los Angeles, sent the final command to the now-hibernating spacecraft, according to an update from the WISE mission's official Twitter account.

"The WISE spacecraft will remain in hibernation without ground contacts awaiting possible future use," NASA officials said via Twitter.

WISE launched on Dec. 14, 2009 to begin a 10-month mission to collect data to be stitched together into a composite map of the entire sky. The spacecraft surveyed the cosmos in infrared light, which allowed it to peer through dense layers of dust to capture stunning space photos of previously unseen objects in unprecedented detail.

In addition to spotting asteroids and comets, the $320 million space telescope is designed to detect the faint glow of distant objects, such as strangely cool brown dwarf stars. Over the course of its mission, WISE scanned the sky 1 1/2 times, taking about 1.8 million images of asteroids, stars and galaxies. The spacecraft also spotted 19 previously unseen comets and more than 33,500 asteroids, including 120 near-Earth objects, which are objects with orbits that pass relatively close to Earth's own orbit around the sun. In late September 2010, WISE ran out of the coolant needed to chill its infrared detectors. The observatory then began an extended mission, dubbed the NEOWISE Post-Cryogenic Mission. Without coolant to prevent its instruments from warming up, WISE operated on two of its four detectors, training its eyes on objects within our solar system. Since the spacecraft and telescope were in good condition prior to mission's end, Wright proposed a three-month extension in order to complete the second half of the observatory's second sky survey. In May 2010, a NASA panel advised against the extension, however, which would have added$6.5 million to the program's price tag.

After WISE's coolant ran out, mission scientists came up with an alternative plan – the NEOWISE mission – to seek out near-Earth asteroids. That mission extension cost substantially less, about \$400,000, NASA officials have said