New Light on the Darkest Dwarfs
International Astronomical Union Symposium to be Held on the Big IslandUniversity of Hawaiʻi
Institute for Astronomy
Karen Rehbock, (808) 956-6829
Institute for Astronomy
Starting next Monday, May 20th, nearly 150 astronomers from 16 different countries will meet for five days at the Outrigger Waikoloa Beach Hotel on the Big Island of Hawaii to present the latest results about worldwide research on brown dwarfs. The meeting has the category of International Astronomical Union Symposium. In fact, it is the first Symposium dedicated exclusively to brown dwarfs.
"Holding this Symposium would have been just a wild dream only 7 years ago, when no brown dwarfs had been identified yet. We have indeed seen a lot of progress in this field in a very short time, and now a dream is coming true" says Dr. Eduardo Martin, chair of the Scientific Organizing Committee, and a junior faculty member at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy. Brown dwarfs are a new kind of celestial object. They have properties intermediate between those of stars and planets, and constitute a natural link between these two types of classical objects. Due to slow gravitational contraction, they emit a dim glow of light, which can only be detected with powerful telescopes, such as those located atop Mauna Kea.
The conference attendees will debate current ideas about how brown dwarfs form and evolve. It is currently unclear whether brown dwarfs form directly from molecular clouds in a manner similar to stars, or whether they form out of circumstellar disks, in a similar way as planets are thought to form. Discoveries of brown dwarfs in star-forming regions, young open clusters, the solar neighborhood, and around stars and other brown dwarfs, are expected to be reported on during the meeting.
One special session, chaired by Dr. Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, will be dedicated to delineating the boundary between brown dwarfs and giant planets. Scientists have not reached a consensus yet about what should be called a brown dwarf and what should be called a planet. The Brown Dwarfs Symposium provides a unique opportunity to discuss the scientific terminology for substellar objects. The invited panel members are: Prof. Shiv Kumar, emeritus professor of the University of Virginia and president of The Galileo Institute, who first predicted the existence of very-low-mass objects unable to sustain hydrogen-burning thermonuclear reactions in 1962; Prof. Gibor Basri of the University of California at Berkeley, co-discoverer of the first double Brown Dwarf; Dr. Jim Liebert of the University of Arizona Steward Observatory, co-discoverer of many nearby Brown Dwarf neighbors to our Sun; Dr. Didier Queloz of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, co-discoverer of the first extrasolar planet around a normal star; Dr. Bo Reipurth of the UH Institute for Astronomy; and Dr. Maria Rosa Zapatero Osorio of the Laboratory for Fundamental Astrophysics in Madrid, Spain, co-discoverer of one of the first brown dwarfs.
The Brown Dwarfs Symposium is hosted by the Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii, in collaboration with the Subaru Telescope of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan; the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility; the British-Canadian-Dutch Joint Astronomy Centre; and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Corporation. NASA, the Hawaii Island Economic Development Board, the University of Hawaii at Hilo Conference Center, and the Hawaii Tourism Authority have sponsored the conference.
Members of the press and news media are invited to attend all sessions of the Symposium at no cost. They are asked to check in at the Conference Registration Desk at the Outrigger Waikoloa Beach Hotel in order to obtain Symposium materials and other information of interest.
More information about the Brown Dwarfs Symposium is available at
An image of the Orion nebula region where dozens of newborn brown dwarfs have been spotted indicating that these objects are very numerous in Nature. The image was provided by J.-C. Cuillandre of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Corporation, which is one of the hosts of the Brown Dwarfs Symposium, and it is available at:
The Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii conducts research into galaxies, cosmology, stars, planets, and the Sun. Its faculty and staff are also involved in astronomy education, deep space missions, and in the development and management of the observatories on Haleakala and Mauna Kea. Refer to
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