Two new brown dwarfs have been discovered relatively close to to our solar system. Spotted by astronomers from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP), the “failed stars”* are only 15 and 18 light-years from the sun. 15 and 18 light-years may not seem that close — after all, the nearest bona fide star to the sun, red dwarf Proxima Centauri, is a mere four light-years away. But if these discoveries continue it may not be long until a brown dwarf, and not Proxima, is found to be our nearest stellar neighbor.
Brown dwarfs are often referred to as “failed stars” as they are not massive enough to support nuclear fusion in their cores, and yet they cannot be called “planets” as they don’t exhibit chemical differentiation with depth and have convective flows — a very star-like quality. Therefore, they exist in a stellar hinterland, where they are neither a star or a planet, and yet exhibit characteristics of both.