Emily Rice

American Museum of Natural History, Post-doctoral Researcher

Cooler than the Coolest Stars: Brown Dwarfs

Brown dwarfs are enigmatic astronomical objects that are colder and less massive than the coolest stars, but too hot and massive to be considered planets. Although their existence had been theorized for for half a century, the first free-floating (that is, not orbiting a star) brown dwarfs were only identified just over a dozen years ago and many of their observational properties remain unexplained. I will describe how astronomers use telescopes to find and study brown dwarfs and what these "cool" objects can tell us about our own Solar System, planets around other stars, and whether we are alone in the Universe.