Scientists at the University of Delaware showed that a few brown dwarfs can still emit light despite being known as failed stars. The research team spotted 2MASS 0335+23, a brown dwarf that emits flares hotter and stronger than the sun located 63 light-years away.

As presented at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in San Diego on June 13, the newly discovered brown dwarf is 4,400 degrees Fahrenheit or 2,427 degrees Celsius. It is only 23 million years old, relatively young compared to other known brown dwarfs.

“This shows that the warmer brown dwarfs can generate flares from magnetic field energy just like stars,” says lead researcher John Gizis, a professor at the university’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. “Our work shows, however, that colder brown dwarfs cannot generate flares even though they also have magnetic fields.”

brown dwarf

This artist’s conception illustrates what a “Y dwarf,” a brown dwarf, might look like. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The researchers employed NASA’s Kepler space telescope, observing the brown dwarf which was first seen in 1999, every minute for a period of three months. During this time, the brown dwarf’s brightness increased up to two times, lasting for two to four minutes for a dozen times.

Further studies revealed that 2MASS 0335+23 is part of the Beta Pictoris moving group or stars that are born and move at the same time. They were scattered when the interstellar cloud to which they came from collapsed.

Brown dwarfs are born in the same way as other regular stars. However, unlike 2MASS 0335+23, they normally do not shine as bright as stars since they do not get large and hot enough so their helium and hydrogen combine at their core. These failed stars are also comparable to planets, particularly Jupiter. Like other planets, they get colder in time.

The researchers are currently looking for clouds and planets around  2MASS 0335+23. They believe that if this brown dwarf has planets, they are most likely fried up due to its flare emission just like how the solar flares affect Earth although at a worse scale.