A team of astronomers has used the Keck and Subaru telescopes on Maunakea to gain new insight into the processes of star and planet formation. They observed 27 star systems with planet-scale objects in orbit around them, by using specialized techniques to separate the light from the parent star and the much-dimmer orbiting objects. Some of the orbiters were giant exoplanets, while others were from a fascinating class of objects known as “brown dwarfs”. These are more substantial than gas-giant planets, but still not massive enough to ignite nuclear fusion in their cores in the way stars do. This earns them the nickname “failed stars”. By figuring out the shapes of the orbits, the team determined that in contrast to the giant planets that formed in a disc of gas and dust rotating around the parent star, brown dwarfs in these systems formed just like their parent stars, from a collapsing clump of gas and dust.