WASHINGTON, April 28 (UPI) -- If Earth orbited WISE J085510.83-071442.5, a nearby star newly discovered by NASA scientists, there would likely be no such thing as a bathing suit or short shorts. That's because this "brown dwarf" -- a star too small to enable nuclear fusion and radiate light -- is as cold as the Arctic.
With its temperature fluctuating between minus-54 and 9 degrees Fahrenheit, the star is the coldest ever spotted. Because brown dwarfs give off minimal light and heat, they're extremely hard to find without a telescope outfitted with an infrared lens. Astronomers have detected other brown dwarfs, but their temperatures have been around room temperature.
"It's very exciting to discover a new neighbor of our solar system that is so close," said Kevin Luhman, an astronomer at Penn State, in a statement released by NASA. "And given its extreme temperature, it should tell us a lot about the atmospheres of planets, which often have similarly cold temperatures."
At a distance of at 7.2 light-years away, the icy cold ball of gas is the fourth-closest star to Earth’s solar system.
The frigid star was discovered by NASA's Spitzer and WISE Telescopes. Its existence was confirmed by NASA scientists and collaborating astronomers from Penn State.
"It is remarkable that even after many decades of studying the sky, we still do not have a complete inventory of the sun's nearest neighbors," said Michael Werner, an astronomer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., who works with data collected by Spitzer. "This exciting new result demonstrates the power of exploring the universe using new tools, such as the infrared eyes of WISE and Spitzer."