A Planet's Habitability Around a Brown Dwarf

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A brown dwarf is too small to be considered a star, and is too big to be considered a planet. Find out about a planet's habitability around a brown dwarf with help from an educational professional in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Moons & Planets
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Video Transcript

Hi, my name’s Eylene Pirez, and I’m an astrophysicist. And, this is a planet’s habitability around a brown dwarf. So, first let’s talk about, what is a brown dwarf? So, a brown dwarf is too small to be considered a star, and is too big to be considered a planet. They are more like stars, but they don’t have the mass enough to actually power themselves like regular stars. So, in a sense, they’re sort of failed stars. They’re masses that could not get to the life of a star. So, there is a lot of problems with having life around those dwarfs because of several things. One, they don’t give off a lot of heat. So, you will have extremely cold conditions, and in order to support life of some sort, you would need some sort of temperature changes, you will also need some liquid, vapor, different chemical approaches. So, here, everything, all the planets, will freeze, and it’ll be difficult to support life without water. Now, the second one is that when these failed stars are changing a lot, and towards the end of their lives, they tend to change their light. And, to be specific is, they’re going to start radiating a lot of ultraviolet radiation, like really damaging radiation. So, you get UV radiation, and what UV radiation does is that it really compromises your chemical structures – it just breaks your bonds, and you end up practically destroying all the water and other chemicals as well. So, you get UV radiation from this. Also, there is another alternative, which is, these failed stars are very small, and the planet’s center are really close to them, and what happens is sometimes they create this super heating due to gravitational forces – not the actual light, but gravitational forces are heating the planets, and what this causes is everything in the surface to evaporate. So, you no longer have any means – your atmosphere is gone, your surface is pretty much evaporated. So, what you end up is with gravitational heating. So, these are three common problems that a planet will face if they were to surround a brown dwarf, and it would definitely compromise the habitat of those planets. My name is Eylene Pirez, and I’m an astrophysicist. And, this is the habitat of a planet around a brown dwarf.

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