ScienceDaily: Citizen scientist discovers 34 supercool dwarf binaries

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What is the likelihood of stars living alone? Brown dwarfs are objects that cross the boundary between the most powerful planets of the smallest stars. Astronomers need more evidence to prove this. Frank Kiwy, an Ace citizen scientist, has used the Astro Data Lab science platform from NSF’s NOIRLab for 34 new ultracool-dwarf binary systems in Sun’s near. This almost doubles the number known.

Citizen scientist searched NSF’s NOIRLab catalog of 4 billion celestial items, also known as NOIRLabSource Catalog DR2, in search for brown dwarfs and their companions. The intensive investigation revealed 34 ultracool dwarf binary system, almost twice the previously known samples. [1].

Brown dwarfs can be found somewhere between the most massive stars and the smallest planets. Brown dwarfs lack the mass to support nuclear reactions in their cores, so they look more like cooling embers. They are difficult to identify due to their small size and faintness. Although data from sensitive telescopes has allowed the discovery of many thousand objects, only a subset have been identified and classified as binaries. Astronomers still don’t know how many brown dwarfs are companions because of the difficulty of observing faint embers.

Backyard Worlds’ citizen science team used citizen scientists around the world to analyze telescope images and identify subtle motions in brown dwarfs. Even with the capabilities of supercomputers and machine-learning, the human eye still remains an invaluable resource when searching for moving objects in telescope images.

Aaron Meisner (astronomer at NSF’s NOIRLab, co-founder of Backyard Worlds) stated that “The Backyard Worlds Project has fostered an diverse community of talented volunteers.” Backyard Worlds attracted over 150,000 volunteers around the world, with a handful of’superusers’ completing ambitious self-directed research.

Frank Kiwy, a citizen scientist and super sleuth, embarked upon a research project involving NOIRLab Source Catalog DR2, a catalogue of almost 4 billion unique celestial objects. It contains all the public imaging data from NOIRLab’s Astro Data Archive. Kiwy found over 2500 potential ultracool dwarves by searching the archive for objects with brown dwarf colors. These were then analyzed for signs of comoving partners, yielding 34 systems which included a white dwarf or low mass star and an ultracool dwarf companion. [2]. The team was then led by Kiwy, a professional team of astrophysicists, to publish these discoveries in a scientific article.

“I love the Backyard Worlds – Planet 9 project!” Kiwy said that once you have mastered the routine workflow, you can dig deeper into the subject. “This is the right career for someone who is open to learning new things and curious.”

Chris Davis, NOIRLab Program Director for NSF, comments that “this amazing result clearly shows that NOIRLab’s dataset archive has a reach that goes beyond that of professional Astronomers.” “Keen members can participate in cutting-edge research, and share in the joys of cosmic discovery!

This is a wonderful story of citizen science. It could help astronomers determine how brown dwarfs compare to larger planets and smaller stars. Also, it may provide insights into how star system evolution over time. It also demonstrates how scientists continue to make a remarkable contribution to astronomy by using astronomical archive and science platforms like NOIRLab’s Astro Data Archive and Astro Data Labor at the Community Science and Data Center.

Aaron Meisner stated that “these discoveries were made astronomer amateur who conquered the astronomical large data.” “Modern astronomy archives are a treasure trove of data that often contain major discoveries waiting to be discovered.

Notes

[1]The previous examples include L dwarf-red dwarf pairs, which are separated by more than 150 Astrological Units (au), as well as red dwarf-L dwarf pairs with separations of 700 to 1800 au. An astronomical units (au) are units used by astronomers. They were originally chosen to show the average distance between Earth and Sun, approximately 150 million kilometers or 93,000,000 miles.

[2]The distance between the nearest dwarf pair was just 170 au. The distance between the farthest distant dwarfs was about 8500AU.

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