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Artist's illustration of a brown dwarf. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Scientists have discovered the three fastest spinning "failed stars" yet found, suggesting there might be a speed limit to how fast they can rotate.

The big picture: These objects — called brown dwarfs — are thought to be "failed stars" that didn't collect enough mass to ignite fusion in their cores needed to be considered a star and too large to be a gas giant planet like Jupiter.

  • By learning more about these fast-moving brown dwarfs, researchers hope to figure out more about their evolution and formation.

What they found: A new study in the Astronomical Journal shows that the three brown dwarfs each rotate fully about once per hour despite being in very different environments.

  • Researchers think that if these brown dwarfs rotated faster than this "speed limit," it might cause them to break apart.
  • "It would be pretty spectacular to find a brown dwarf rotating so fast it is tossing its atmosphere out into space," Megan Tannock, an author of the new study, said in a NASA statement
  • "But so far, we haven’t found such a thing. I think that must mean that either something is slowing the brown dwarfs down before they hit that extreme or that they can’t get that fast in the first place."

The intrigue: The new study also shows that old, out-of-service telescopes can find new life after death.

  • The researchers used data collected by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, which was turned off in January 2020, to find the spin rates of the brown dwarfs and then followed up with ground-based telescopes to gather more information.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
31 mins ago - Science

All-civilian Inspiration4 is back on Earth after flight to space

A side-by-side of the Inspiration4 crew and a shot of their capsule on the way back to Earth. Photo: SpaceX

The all-civilian Inspiration4 crew is back on Earth after their three-day mission in orbit.

The big picture: The launch and landing of this fully amateur, private space crew marks a changing of the guard from spaceflight being a largely government-led venture to being under the purview of private companies.

28 U.S. citizens depart Afghanistan on Qatar Airways flight

Passengers board a Qatar Airways aircraft bound to Qatar at the airport in Kabul on September 10, 2021. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department on Saturday confirmed that a Qatar Airways charter flight left Kabul on Friday with 28 U.S. citizens and seven lawful permanent residents on board.

The big picture: Friday's flight is the third such airlift by Qatar Airways since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, AP reports.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Smaller than expected "Justice for J6" rally met with large police presence

Police officers watch as demonstrators gather for the "Justice for J6" rally in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 18, 2021. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

A few hundred demonstrators were met by a heavy law enforcement presence on Saturday at the "Justice for J6" rally outside the fenced-off U.S. Capitol, AP reports.

The latest: Four people were arrested at the rally, including one person with a gun, one with a knife and two with outstanding warrants, per the U.S. Capitol Police.