Luhman 16A

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Luhman 16A

  • Luhman 16 is a binary star system, the third closest system to the Sun after Alpha Centauri and Barnard’s star.
  • At a distance of about 6.5 light years from the Sun, this pair of brown dwarfs referred to as Luhman 16A and Luhman 16B orbit each other, casting a dim light.
  • A group of international astrophysicists have identified cloud bands on the surface of Luhman 16A, one of a pair of binary brown dwarfs in the Vela constellation.
  • The researchers have found the actual structure of the clouds that they form bands over one of the pair (Luhman 16A) of brown dwarfs.
  • They have used an idea put forth nearly two decades ago by Indian astrophysicist Sujan Sengupta, that the light emitted by a cloudy brown dwarf, or reflected off an extrasolar planet, will be polarised.
  • He suggested that a polarimetric technique could serve as a potential tool to probe the environment of these objects.
  • Subsequently, many astronomers detected polarisation of brown dwarfs.
  • Understanding the cloud system over a brown dwarf can shed light on the pressure, temperature and climate on the surface of the celestial body.
Luhman 16A

Brown Dwarfs

  • Brown dwarfs are also called failed stars, because their masses are intermediate to the largest planets and the smallest main sequence stars.
  • Their masses being too small, they are unable to sustain fusion of their hydrogen to produce energy.
  • It is believed that some of the more massive brown dwarfs fuse deuterium or lithium and glow faintly.
  • The faintness of the glow proved to be providential in finding the cloud bands.
  • Unlike a star whose brightness would be too high, or an extra solar planet orbiting a star, where the extra light from its star would have to be cut off to make the measurement, the light of the brown dwarfs was just right.

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