Maunakea Skies at ʻImiloa - "Brown Dwarf Stars, the Missing Link?"

University of Hawaiʻi
Posted: Jun 16, 2008

Hilo, Hawaiʻi — Brown Dwarf Stars is the topic for ʻImiloa's guestastronomer at its upcoming popular, monthly Maunakea Skies eveningplanetarium program scheduled this month on Saturday, June 21 at 7 p.m. Theprogram begins with host Shawn Laatsch, planetarium manager, who willdiscuss some recent discoveries and observational highlights of the summernight-time skies over Hawaiʻi. The program on Brown Dwarf Stars will beoffered by guest speaker, Dr. Loic Albert from Canada-France-HawaiiTelescope.

So what is a Brown Dwarf Star and why do they matter? Toastronomers, Brown Dwarfs are literally the "missing links" between planetsand stars; they are much bigger than planets but much smaller than stars.Interestingly, Brown Dwarfs were discovered only recently, some 13 yearsago, despite the fact that they are almost as numerous as stars. Their latediscovery is attributed to the fact that they shine so faintly and have lowtemperatures. Not until astronomers had a new tool, the infrared camera,uncommon until the1990s, were astronomers able to spot them. Dr. Albertwill share the story of the discovery made at CFHT of a very special BrownDwarf poetically named CFBDS0059 -- the coldest Brown Dwarf now known. Hewas part of the group responsible for the identification and discovery ofthis unique Brown Dwarf.

Born in Quebec Canada, Loic Albert attained his Ph.D. in physics atthe Universite de Montreal in 2004. While at the university, he built aninfrared camera and searched for Brown Dwarfs in the solar neighborhood. Hehas been a resident astronomer at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope since2004. His duties at CFHT are to process the images taken by theWide-Field Infrared Camera (WIRCam) and to pursue his research projectsabout Brown Dwarfs.

The Maunakea Skies planetarium program is usually held on the lastSaturday of each month -- but this month, due to scheduling conflicts, isbeing held a week earlier. The program is presented in ʻImiloa AstronomyCenter‘s 120-seat planetarium at 7:00 p.m. Admission is $5 for ʻImiloamembers and $8 for non-members. Pre-purchase tickets at the ʻImiloa frontdesk or purchase by phone, using Visa or MasterCard, by calling (808)969-9703.

Opened in 2006, ʻImiloa Astronomy Center celebrates both Hawaiianculture and Maunakea astronomy. Through its exhibits and program, ʻImiloastrives to share inspiring examples of science and culture togetheradvancing knowledge, understanding and opportunity. The Center is locatedat 600 ʻImiloa Place in Hilo, off Komohana and Nowelo Streets at the UH-HiloScience and Technology Park. For more information, go to, or call (808) 969-9700.

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