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Dr. Emily Rice (from College of Staten Island), "Stars, Planets, and In Between: The Mysteries of Black Dwarfs"

Date: 04/19/12
Time: 4:30-5:30 p.m.
Audience: Public
Sponsored By: School of Science and Engineering
Location: Coykendall Science Building Auditorium
Contact: Dr. Julio Jorge Gonzalez, x3724, gonzalj@engr.newpaltz.edu

Finding planets around other stars and distinguishing them from other astronomical objects can be a tricky task. In particular, objects called brown dwarfs blur the boundary between star and planet. Brown dwarfs are below the mass required to sustain hydrogen fusion, yet their star-like formation (from collapsing clouds of gas and dust) distinguishes them from planets (formed in disks around stars). Because brown dwarfs gradually cool, shrink, and fade with time, they will resemble very low mass stars when they are young and gas giant planets when they are old. Thus brown dwarfs are crucial for understanding both the low-mass end of star formation and the atmospheric properties of extra-solar gas giant planets. Understanding planets and their impostors will bring us closer to answering the question "Are we alone in the Universe?"