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Brown dwarf stars are cool. Both literally and figuratively; the temperature profile for cool brown dwarves runs somewhere between 225K and 600K. It's possible if not probable that there exist some brown dwarves at room temperature (≈300K or 80°F). With such a hospitable temperature, is it possible for humanoid life to survive around a brown dwarf? What if they lived within a pressurized station in the atmosphere?

I'm mostly concerned here about gravity, atmospheric pressure, and temperature, not so much about atmospheric composition.

I'm also not particularly concerned with the practicality of such a situation. Obviously the most practical way for life (as we understand it) to survive is on the surface of a rocky planet with atmosphere and water. Whether it's a good idea or not, these humanoids are forced to live here; I'm leaning toward some sort of forced emigration, scientific survey, or waypoint on a long but aborted journey.

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  • $\begingroup$ Do you want the race to have evolved here? $\endgroup$ – the_OTHER_DJMethaneMan Feb 10 '15 at 16:39
  • $\begingroup$ I haven't decided whether they evolved there or migrated there ages ago. Evolving there seems very unlikely, considering a pressurized station would probably be necessary. $\endgroup$ – ilinamorato Feb 10 '15 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ WB makes the best hot network questions: i.imgur.com/q6Ky5rp.png $\endgroup$ – Nit Feb 11 '15 at 8:24
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This isn't that practical an idea. A brown dwarf doesn't have many appealing properties. Its low temperature is actually not a great thing. This means you can't get much energy out of it to support your society. You won't freeze or burn on the surface, but you have to create a habitat for yourself anyway, maintaining the temperature of which is not that big of a deal. Keeping a habitable temperature is really the least of worries for space societies, both making and disposing of heat is easy in space. You should be more worried about consumable things like air, food, water, and especially energy.

There isn't really a surface to land on. Getting into the atmosphere of it will put you deep in the gravity well, and, as suggested by another answer, you can't just use rockets from the hydrogen unless you have oxygen to combust with it. Unfortunately, you had to bring all the oxygen you have and you're using that for breathing.

If you want to allow for infinite resources (since you'll need to bring in everything required for life, including the energy) then yes, you could exist there. The question then becomes why would you want to? Perhaps for some kind of scientific mission where people actually need to be there. It would be a harsh outpost, I can't imagine volunteering for going.

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    $\begingroup$ The only appealing property is that there are many more of them. Possibly a good way to bridge the gap between star systems which is one of the reasons this station might have been built. $\endgroup$ – the_OTHER_DJMethaneMan Feb 10 '15 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ @DustinJackson I suppose that would be appealing if they were of any other use. It's likely that a vast majority of star systems have a gas giant that could provide the same benefits. It may come up as a last resort, in which case we would certainly orbit it rather than throw oxygen into it to be hovering above it as you suggest. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Feb 10 '15 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ You only need oxygen if you're burning the hydrogen chemically. If you have the tech to get to another star you almost certainly have the tech to create propulsion from hydrogen using nuclear fusion instead, which doesn't need oxygen. $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Feb 11 '15 at 10:09
  • $\begingroup$ "This means you can't get much energy out of it to support your society" Are you sure? It's amazing how much energy can be extracted from air even at 0C/273K. Not to the efficiency of extracting from oil etc, but there are certainly possibilities for geothermal energy $\endgroup$ – Jon Story Feb 11 '15 at 12:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Nathaniel Clearly, that was in reference to another answer. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Feb 11 '15 at 16:19
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You could easily liken a Jupiter to a Brown Dwarf. Jupiter has a massive amount of cosmic radiation compared to other planets we know of. A Brown Dwarf has immense gravity and the theoretical station you want would need to have a few very powerful rockets firing against the surface constantly to stop it from falling into the atmosphere. After that you would need a fuel source (possibly the hydrogen in the atmosphere?) and you would need to find the Goldilocks zone of the dwarf. As long as they were in this pressurized station and the rockets worked, you could within reason have something similar to what you described, although you would want to stay closer to the surface of the dwarf.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why do you need to hover inside it? Or find the Goldilocks-zone if you're inside of a pressurized space station? $\endgroup$ – Samuel Feb 10 '15 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ I figured it has more to do with the fact that people would have to exit the station for repairs and it is easier if the pressure/temperature were good enough for human tissue to survive. $\endgroup$ – the_OTHER_DJMethaneMan Feb 10 '15 at 18:46
  • $\begingroup$ Less gear is required. $\endgroup$ – the_OTHER_DJMethaneMan Feb 10 '15 at 18:46
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    $\begingroup$ So their spacesuits can be thinner? That makes "very powerful rockets firing against the surface constantly" worth it? $\endgroup$ – Samuel Feb 10 '15 at 18:48
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    $\begingroup$ Ah, I thought you were trying to logically defend your answer just now with your 'figuring', I suppose not. You're technically correct, I had assumed that a society would make such a decision logically. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Feb 10 '15 at 19:21
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The most practical scenario would probably be a moon/planet(depending on how you classify it) orbiting the brown dwarf in a multiple star system where another star would provide your source of energy.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to the Worldbuilding Stack Exchange! While we do love us some science and common sense, we endeavor to find direct answers to people's questions. Your answer, while practical, does not actually answer the question itself. You can edit your answers, though, to amend your answer as you see fit. $\endgroup$ – PipperChip Feb 10 '15 at 20:12
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Sure. A planet rotating around it might be generating its own heat due to tidal forces against it. It might not be a large amount, but possibly enough for human made habitats to exist and function. Imagine the surface of Io or Europa. I would not be expecting it to be a particularly inviting environment. Nor would you expect to find Earth-like life developing there.

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From what I'm reading in the citations referenced below, this could only occur if the orbit of the object or platform used is extremely well controlled and the distance would need to move closer to the brown dwarf as time passes in order to maintain its habitability as the brown dwarf cooled. If you are actually referencing a surface type situation, you need to take into account that the mass of a brown dwarf is normally over 13 times that of Jupiter, but packed in a similar physical space. That would cause immense gravity and would very likely make habitability extremely inhospitable and unlikely by any life form that I know of at this time.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3612282/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_dwarf

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