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Thread: Brown Dwarf, early nomenclature.

  1. #1
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    Brown Dwarf, early nomenclature.

    Back in the 1990s, maybe early 2000s, I recall that there was a debate in naming the whole class of items we now call brown dwarfs. I recall having a magazine article on it, but I can't find it nor is my Google Fu up to the task.

    Were there alternatives to that name or am I misremembering?
    Solfe

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    Black dwarf, Planetar and Substar were all used. Black Dwarf now refers to something else.

    Edit to add: I thought I remembered them being 'failed stars' at some point, but can't see any evidence for that. The other names were harvested from Wikipedia and a couple of other sites.
    Last edited by Shaula; 2018-Sep-08 at 04:01 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaula View Post
    Black dwarf, Planetar and Substar were all used. Black Dwarf now refers to something else.

    Edit to add: I thought I remembered them being 'failed stars' at some point, but can't see any evidence for that. The other names were harvested from Wikipedia and a couple of other sites.
    Planetar was the word I was thinking of. That probably messed up my Googling because I was looking for a name on the tip of my tongue.
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaula View Post
    Black dwarf, Planetar and Substar were all used. Black Dwarf now refers to something else.

    Edit to add: I thought I remembered them being 'failed stars' at some point, but can't see any evidence for that. The other names were harvested from Wikipedia and a couple of other sites.
    The term "failed stars" has been used in SF (e.g. the Alliance/Union series by C.J. Cherryh, the first of which was published in 1982), and I've seen it used recently in some pop-sci articles describing brown dwarfs.
    Selden

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    An article published in "Nature" in 1973 uses the term "Failed Star" in the title:

    https://www.nature.com/articles/244424a0

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    Thanks, Selden and StupendousMan. Good to see that my brain wasn't totally failing me. I wish it was the Nature article I'd read that influenced me but I suspect it was the sci-fi and pop-sci.

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    I hope “failed star” becomes a failed label. Is a bush a “failed tree”?
    We know time flies, we just can't see its wings.

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    This question is discussed in Chapter 7 of Ken Croswell's book Planet Quest.

    According to Planet Quest, the very first term for what are now called brown dwarfs was "Lilliputian stars," which Harvard astronomer Harlow Shapley coined in a 1958 book. (page 115 of Planet Quest)

    Shiv Kumar then did papers on brown dwarfs, calling them "black dwarfs." (pages 118-119 of Planet Quest). That was the term used during the 1960s and early 1970s. "Brown dwarf" originated in 1975.

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    My memory is that the word "planetar" (between a planet and a star) was tossed around in the 1970s. I've had trouble finding references using that term in astronomy literature, gets confused with the Dungeons & Dragons creature of the same name. Wikipedia...

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_brown_dwarfs

    ...says brown dwarfs were also called hyperjovians as well as planetars. Again, I am positive I've heard that term for decades, but can't get a good internet reference to it right now. Will keep poking at it.

    The earliest reference in NASA's SAO index to "failed star" was this:

    ====================================

    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1973Natur.244..424M
    Are the Jovian Planets ``Failed'' Stars?
    by McNally, D.; Nature, Volume 244, Issue 5416, pp. 424-426 (1973). DATE: 08/1973

    "There are three distinct types of object in the Solar System-the Sun is a star ; the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth/Moon, Mars) are solid bodies ; and the Jovian planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) are cold gaseous bodies. The nature of Pluto is not established and Pluto will be discounted for my purposes here. It is surely no accident that the solid members of the planetary system lie nearer the Sun than the gaseous members. The most distant terrestrial planet (Mars) is 1.52 AU from the Sun whereas the nearest Jovian planet (Jupiter) is 5.20 AU from the Sun (1 AU = 1.496 108 km). As yet no agreed view of planetary formation exists. Most theories involve a single process for all the planets (see, for example, ref. 1). I suggest that the division of the planetary bodies into solid and gaseous types may imply different formation mechanisms. In particular I suggest that the terrestrial planets formed in a high density shell surrounding the proto-Sun and that the Jovian planets are the remnants of other attempts to form stars contemporaneously with the Sun."

    ===========================

    You see that "failed star" began with the Jupiter angle, which it kept until the 1990s, after which it meant only brown dwarf (as far as I can tell in online searches).

    "Black dwarf" was also used, as was "Lilliputian star".

    ================================

    http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu/c...;filetype=.pdf
    "Brown Dwarfs, Lilliputian Stars, Giants Planets and Missing Mass Problems" (1976)

    http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu/c...;filetype=.pdf
    "Brown and Black Dwarfs: their Structure, Evolution and Contribution to the Missing Mass" (1978)

    ==============================

    Both of the above reference the 0.08 solar mass limit that we now know to be the maximum mass of a non-hydrogen-burning brown dwarf. Brown dwarfs were thought to be behind the "missing mass" of the universe, which they weren't.

    I enjoy looking up word origins, thank you for some fun.
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    Found the horrible term "stillborn star" in reference to brown dwarfs, but let's forget that ever happened, OMG.

    "Failed star" is extremely common these days in reference to brown dwarfs, even in article titles, but I really hate the term.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

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    Found a reference to "black dwarfs" in a detailed 1967 abstract. These "black dwarfs" are actually all of the supposed-but-false-positive astrometric studies on nearby stars like Barnard's Star, 61 Cygni AB, etc. that turned out to not exist. Interesting read.
    http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu/f...J.....72T.809K

    The earliest such article on supposed objects that would have been brown dwarfs, had they really existed, was in "61 Cygni as a Triple System" by K. Aa. Strand, Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Vol. 55, No. 322, p.29-32 (PASP Homepage), from 1943.

    In the article, Strand gives his straightforward opinion that the 16x Jupiter's mass object he thought was in the 61 Cygni system was a planet.

    Peter van de Kamp used to call them "unseen companions."
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

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    Again, this question is answered in Ken Croswell's book Planet Quest. Kumar's first paper on the subject, which appeared in 1963, calls them black dwarfs. The book also discusses why Kumar did not think it was appropriate to call them anything else.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SagittariusAStar View Post
    Again, this question is answered in Ken Croswell's book Planet Quest. Kumar's first paper on the subject, which appeared in 1963, calls them black dwarfs. The book also discusses why Kumar did not think it was appropriate to call them anything else.
    Well, I feel ridiculous. I used Google to try to find an answer, then came here. Today, I glaced at my bookshelf and notice my copy of Planet Quest sitting on the shelf. Ugh.
    Solfe

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    I had great fun!
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    Well, I feel ridiculous. I used Google to try to find an answer, then came here. Today, I glaced at my bookshelf and notice my copy of Planet Quest sitting on the shelf. Ugh.
    One of the nice things about reading a book is there's no creepy monopolistic big tech company tracking your every move.

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    I recall a sci-fi book from the Seventies or so where they were called "Gray Ghosts".
    And I've heard even Jupiter called a "failed star".
    SHARKS (crossed out) MONGEESE (sic) WITH FRICKIN' LASER BEAMS ATTACHED TO THEIR HEADS

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    And I've heard even Jupiter called a "failed star".
    That is a useful term when one's fiction is to fix what failed and have Jupiter become a star. Ug. [Which popular movie did that?]
    We know time flies, we just can't see its wings.

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    Quote Originally Posted by George View Post
    That is a useful term when one's fiction is to fix what failed and have Jupiter become a star. Ug. [Which popular movie did that?]
    2010?
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    2010?
    Thanks. Yes, I knew it was something popular and not that old.
    We know time flies, we just can't see its wings.

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