Bigger than a gas giant planet like Jupiter. Smaller than a star. A brown dwarf, sometimes called a “failed star,” occupies an interesting middle ground between the two. NASA highlighted an image from the Hubble Space Telescope last week showing two brown dwarfs locked in a celestial dance with each other.
The picture is a stack of 12 images taken over three years. The brown dwarf stars reside in the Luhman 16AB system, located a mere 6 light-years away.
The celestial objects under observation are called Luhman 16A and Luhman 16B. The European Space Agency notes they “orbit each other at a distance of only three times the distance between the Earth and the sun, and so these observations are a showcase for Hubble’s precision and high resolution.”
Astronomers put the dancing pair under scrutiny while searching for an expected exoplanet in the system. However, the Hubble data shows the brown dwarf stars are dancing their cosmic tango alone.
The ESA, NASA and Hubble also released an animated GIF showing the brown dwarfs’ mesmerizing travels: