Record Cold Star Discovered Nearby
Typically when one pictures a star, they imagine a large and very hot ball of gas. Stars come in many varieties though, and some do not fit that description. Researchers at Penn State University have recently found one such star using NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and Spitzer Space Telescope.
The Sun is a fairly middle-of-the-road star, with many stars coming in heavier and hotter, and many being lighter and cooler. Brown dwarfs definitely fall into the latter category as it has to be decided if each example is indeed a star or just a large gas giant. They are so lacking in mass that when the gas collapsed to form them, the gravity was not intense enough to initiate nuclear fusion, which makes them very cold. The recently discovered WISE J085510.83-071442.5 brown dwarf is actually as cold as Earth's North Pole, with temperatures between -48 and -13 ºC. The researchers do believe it is a star though, and not just a gas giant, like Jupiter, but three to ten times larger.
As the researchers analyzed it, they determined it is only 7.2 light years away, which puts it at the fourth-nearest system to our own. Even though it is very close, its cold temperatures mean we will likely never try to send anything to it, or any planets that may be orbiting it.