Unraveling Brown Dwarf Origins

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Science  16 Jan 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5656, pp. 322-323
DOI: 10.1126/science.1091840

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Brown dwarfs, which are somewhere between stars and planets in mass, appear to be common both in the solar neighborhood and in star-forming regions. Their origin is a topic of significant current interest and debate. In his Perspective, Jayawardhana discusses the ongoing debate about their origins. Some astronomers have suggested that brown dwarfs are stellar embryos ejected from newborn multiple star systems. Others argue that they form in the same manner as stars, through fragmentation and collapse of interstellar clouds. Observations of young brown dwarfs may help distinguish among different scenarios for their formation. Future infrared and millimeter observations, from telescopes on the ground and in space, could provide more definitive tests.