Amateur astronomers helped discover closest young Brown dwarf disc to date

An interesting discovery has been made through the Disc Detective project by citizen scientists. These amateur scientists worked with researchers to discover the closest young Brown dwarf disc ever discovered. A brown dwarf is too big to be a planet, but not big enough to be a star.Scientists consider brown dwarfs to be a missing link between the most massive gas giant planets and the smaller stars. Because they glow dimly, they are difficult to discover in the night sky. Some brown dwarfs retain the disc of swirling gas and dust left over from their initial formation. Those materials are able to collide and can form planets, but it's unclear what sort of planets a brown dwarf can generate.

Researchers from MIT and the University of Oklahoma, with the help of citizen scientists, have identified a brown dwarf with a disc that is the youngest of its kind and is within about 100 parsecs of Earth. The official name is W1200-7845, and it appears to have the type of disc that could potentially form planets.

Scientists say that it's about 3.7 million years old and is about 332 light-years from Earth. Scientists believe that it's close enough that they may be able to zoom in on the young system using high-power telescopes that launch in the future. They hope that they may be able to examine the earliest conditions of a brown dwarf disc and possibly learn more about the planets a brown dwarf could support.

Disk Detective is a crowdsourced project funded by NASA and hosted by Zooniverse that provides images of objects in space for the public to classify. The goal of the project is to pick out objects that are likely to be stars with discs that could potentially host planets. The images were taken by the NASA WISE spacecraft.