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December 07, 2005 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-12-07

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December 7, 2005



. .. .......

An artist's rendition of a hypothetical miniatureized solar system, shown top right, compared to a solar system based around a star called 55 Cancri, which is about the same size as our sun.
By Jeremy Davidson U Daily Science Reporter
Astronomers observe a brown dwarf that may have planets

cientists have discovered an object about 10 times the size of Jupiter
that may develop into the smallest known solar system.
Using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, the Hubble Space Tele-
scope and two telescopes in Chile, scientists discovered a unique brown
This sub-stellar object calls the definitions of stars and planets into
question said Astronomy Prof. Lee Hartmann, who has been involved
with observing and obtaining infrared data about the brown dwarf from
the Spitzer Space Telescope.
Astronomers are unsure how to classify this brown dwarf because,
while it does not create nuclear fusion - a process unique to stars - it
has the potential for planets to form around it. Hartmann said nothing
as small as this brown dwarf has ever had the potential for planets to
In the past, scientists have classified brown dwarfs by size and for-
mation. Brown dwarfs do not have enough mass to create the kind of
pressure necessary for nuclear fusion, making it possible for scientists to
recognize them as non-stellar formations.
Hartmann said scientists have had little trouble distinguishing between
stars and planets, due to their drastic differences in size and formation,

but that if this brown dwarf forms planets, it could call the current terms
"brown dwarf" a "planet" into question.
Current star development theory says that when a cold cloud of gas
gains enough mass and becomes unstable to its own gravity, the matter
collapses on itself - eventually becoming massive enough to support
nuclear fusion.
Brown dwarfs undergo a similar process, but with a smaller cloud,
which makes it impossible for them to achieve nuclear fusion.
Current planet formation theory suggests that while the star collapses,
it drives a rotating disc that pulls matter around the star in the same direc-
tion. Planets are formed when large masses of dust, rock and other matter
that orbit around a star accumulate.
Until this most recent discovery, scientists had not observed a brown
dwarf with a rotating disc.
Hartmann said this aspect of the unique brown dwarf demonstrates the
process of star formation in a much smaller mass, in a much smaller sys-
tem. If formed, the planets would be the first of their kind discovered.
"It makes it more confusing about what makes ... a planet and what
makes a brown dwarf," Hartmann said.
Astronomy Prof. Nulia Calvet said astronomers will continue to observe

"It makes it more confusing
about what makes... a planet
and what makes a brown dwarf."
-Lee Hartmann
Astronomy Prof.
the object, which is about 400 light years away from the earth; to see if it
indeed will form planets around it.
Hartmann said that if this brown dwarf does produce planets, it would
be the smallest object to produce a solar system.
"This is something that's bright and shiny, so it seems more like a star
or a Brown Dwarf, but it makes us want to reconsider where we draw the
line between a planet and a Brown Dwarf," Hartmann said.

Continued from page 1
weekly meetings.
But as assembly members trickled into
MSA chambers last night, business casual
wasn't exactly the trend.
Wearing North Face fleeces, Nikes,
hoodies and sweatpants, many MSA
members ignored the executive board's
suggestion. One representative wore a
suit and tie, but topped off the outfit with
a hat reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss character.
Another wore a safari hat.
All four executive board members fol-
lowed their own suggestion.
MSA President Jesse Levine looked
the part of a student body leader when.
he departed from his usual ensemble of
a hooded sweatshirt with jeans to don
a light blue button-down shirt, khakis,
brown dress shoes and light-colored socks
last night.
The dapper dress contrasted tabletops
littered with Chinese take-out boxes,
Wendy's bags and empty latte cups.
MSA Vice President Nicole Stallings

said executives were attempting to lead
by example and to "set a good tone" for
the assembly.
The executive board had hoped that
other MSA members would follow
suit, but it appeared that many have not
responded to the suggestion. Little more
than half of the assembly dressed up to
the board's standards.
MSA representative Laura Van Hyfte
said that she supports the new precedent
and thinks "it will encourage a profes-
sional attitude."
"We're working on making ourselves
more serious and professional in general
and this is just one part of that," Vice-
President Stallings said.
Former MSA President Jason Mironov
favored the business casual mode of dress
during his tenure last year, on some occa-
sions wearing a full suit.
Mironov credits Levine with continu-
ously bringing more professionalism to
"Professionalism starts with a basic
level of being dressed nice when interact-
ing with colleagues, peers and adminis-

trators," he said.
MSA Treasurer Devesh Senapati also
emphasized the importance of appear-
"The way that you dress is a reflection
of your attitude towards your work," he
But Walter Nowinski, who has recently
established an opposition party to chal-
lenge the dominant Students 4 Michigan,
is skeptical.
"This is papering over the bigger issue
here, which is leadership," said Nowinski,
a former member of MSA's Budget Priori-
ties Committee.
Nowinski has been highly critical of
the current leadership, mostly criticizing
the Ludacris concert.
"MSA needs to be more professional
but that isn't going to come from dressing
nice," he said.
Executive board members said the
purpose of suggesting a business casual
dress code is meant to improve the body's
efficiency and professionalism, and not
intended as a reaction to criticism of the
assembly's lack of seriousness.

Continued from page 1
higher credit brackets would
receive earlier registration appoint-
ments, but it would reduce the
likelihood of a student with fewer
credits of getting an earlier regis-
tration appointment than a student
with more credits.
LSA-SG President Andrew Yah-
kind said he hopes the resolution
will "demonstrate to the Univer-
sity administration that the student
body will not forget about credit
bracket reform."
The resolution cited a poll LSA-
SG conducted during its March
2005 elections in which 75 percent
of the 908 LSA students polled sup-
ported smaller credit groupings.

Registration policies vary across
schools in the Big Ten.
"Relative to the other Big Ten
schools that we researched, we
found that the University has sig-
nificantly larger credit brackets,"
Rudy said.
The resolution cited the Univer-
sity of Iowa, which divides groups
by increments of seven credits, and
Michigan State University, which
divides groups by increments of
one credit, as examples of schools
with smaller credit groupings.
One of LSA-SG's chief frustra-
tions this year has been dealing
with the Office of the Registrar in
its efforts to change the size of the
credit bracket. Butler said the reg-
istrar's office has failed to respond
to requests to "come and defend

their position."
Butler said this isn't the first time
LSA-SG has passed a resolution
supporting smaller credit brackets,
citing two similar resolutions that
have been passed in the past.
Yahkind and Rudy confronted
University Registrar Paul Rob-
inson, Lester Monts, senior vice
provost for academic affairs, and
Associate University Registrar
Kortney Briske about the registra-
tion process at an April 5 meeting
of the Academic Affairs Advisory
According to the committee's
minutes for the meeting, Briske
defended the current system say-
ing it enforces prerequisites and
ensures spaces are reserved for

Continued from page 1
She said any policy change is
unlikely to occur in the near future
because.individual schools adhere to
their own tenure policies.

"The University has been a leader
in this area, and we're stepping up to
the plate at this time, but yes, there
are demands that are unmet yet,"
Thomas said. She added that the
initiative aims to address the avail-
ability and affordability of child care

59 percent, compared with women
with 29 percent.
Peterson said that while there is
still room for progress toward gen-
der equality at the University, the
primary focus of future reviews of
tenure policy and the development of

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