"Brown dwarfs in general, and Y dwarfs specifically, are a wonderful bridge between stellar and planetary astrophysics, because we think brown dwarfs form like stars, but in many respects look more like gas giant planets like Jupiter," Cushing told SPACE.com. "So when we study Y dwarfs, we are not only learning about stars, but also about the conditions of gas giant exoplanets.
"Brown dwarfs are also much easier to observe because in general, they aren't lost in the glare of an exceedingly bright parent star like the majority of exoplanets are."
"Our ultimate goal is to determine what is the least massive brown dwarf that nature can form and how many of these cold brown dwarfs exist near the sun," Cushing added. "This information will help us understand how low-mass stars and brown dwarfs form in general. So we will be continuing to search the sky using WISE for even colder Y dwarfs. We also want to start studying the known Y dwarfs in more detail to determine more-precise temperature estimates, estimate their masses, determine if any of them are actually binary systems and so on.
"The largest obstacle in studying Y dwarfs is that they are extremely faint, so we require the absolute largest telescopes on Earth and the Hubble Space Telescope and in some cases these telescopes are probably still not sensitive enough."
The scientists detailed their findings about the Y dwarfs in a paper appearing in the Astrophysical Journal and about the 100 new brown dwarfs in a study appearing in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series.
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