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Citizen scientists find a failed star in the Sun’s neighborhood

Citizen scientists may not have the time and equipment of their pro counterparts, but their dedication can sometimes lead to discoveries that would otherwise be impractical. Case in point: a NASA-backed citizen science initiative, Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, has found a brown dwarf(effectively, a failed star) relatively close to the Sun at 110 light years away. Rosa Castro and three other amateur observers combed through a “flipbook” of images from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer to spot the dwarf as it traversed through space. The discovery is notable for a few reasons, and not just because dedicated astronomers didn’t catch it.

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