Boffins stumble upon mysterious ‘failed star’ blasting through galaxy by mistake

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Astronomers are baffled over a mysterious object hurtling through the Milky Way which they've dubbed as 'The Accident'.

Its discovery has perplexed scientists as it's not quite a star – nor a planet either.

The dim glow shows there is no nuclear fusion powering the bizarre object like stars behave, but boffins believe it could be something in between a star and a planet.

A rare class of the object is known as a brown dwarf or a failed star.

They can be up to 80 times larger than Jupiter but have a tiny fraction of the mass of Earth's sun.

According to a study in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, it's believed they begin as stars but don't accumulate enough mass for nuclear fusion in their cores.

Instead, they cool down slowly and dim over the period of millions or even billions of years, until nothing but dull red or purple embers remain.

Scientists have detected around 2,000 similar objects in the galaxy using infrared telescopes, and are too dim to see with the naked eye.

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The Accident was discovered after scientists caught a glimpse of it hurling across the screen, and essentially, photobombing a different group of brown dwarf potential candidates – hence where its nickname stemmed from.

After the surprise discovery, The Accident continued to baffle scientists as it appeared faint in some infrared wavelengths but bright in others, possibly being and an old or young brown dwarf.

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Davy Kirkpatrick, the lead study author and astrophysicist at Caltech in Pasadena, California, said: "This object defied all our expectations."

Puzzled astronomers then examined the object with NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, and WM Keck Observatory's infrared telescope in Hawaii.

They found that it's moving fast, and is around 50 light-years away from Earth, writes LiveScience.

What do you make of the mysterious object? Let us know in the comments below

It sweeps through the galaxy at around 500,000 mph, which is typically faster than a normal brown dwarf, and leads scientists to believe it's very old but has been pushed around by the gravity of larger objects over billions of years.

They also found that it is low in methane, leading boffins to determine it could be 10 to 13 billion years old, from a time when the Milky Way was made up of almost entirely hydrogen and helium.

"It's not a surprise to find a brown dwarf this old, but it is a surprise to find one in our backyard," said study co-author Federico Marocco, an astrophysicist at Caltech.

"We expected that brown dwarfs this old exist, but we also expected them to be incredibly rare. The chance of finding one so close to the solar system could be a lucky coincidence, or it tells us that they're more common than we thought."

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