JUL 27, 2016 10:31 AM PDT

Evidence of Water Clouds Found in Atmosphere of Nearby Brown Dwarf

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Brown dwarfs are essentially stars that fail to spark the energy needed to produce nuclear fusion. Instead of being bright and hot, they’re dim and cold. They have the gravity they need to clump together, but they just don’t radiate.
 
Scientists from the University of California, Santa Cruz have been studying a brown dwarf dubbed WISE 0855 with the Gemini-North Telescope in Hawaii and the Gemini Near Infrared Spectrograph since it was originally discovered in 2014.
 

A brown dwarf 7.2 light years away probably contains water vapor and water ice.

 Image Credit: Joy Pollard, Gemini Observatory/AURA

Because it’s a brown dwarf, and located 7.2 light years away, it’s dim and hard to pick up with spectroscopy using optical or near-infrared equipment.
 
Nevertheless, scientists have managed to capture details about the brown dwarf using infrared light, and may have discovered that it contains water clouds and even solid water ice. The findings can be found in a paper from arXiv.org that should soon be published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
 
If true, this would be the first time any evidence of water clouds has been obtained outside of our solar system. Because the brown dwarf doesn’t put off any nuclear fusion, it’s a very cold object, similarly to the gassy planets in our own solar system.
 
"We would expect an object that cold to have water clouds, and this is the best evidence that it does," said Andrew Skemer, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. “WISE 0855 is our first opportunity to study an extrasolar planetary-mass object that is nearly as cold as our own gas giants.”
 
The scientists believe that WISE 0855 has a very similar makeup to that of Jupiter, in that it’s cold, gassy, and full of possible water vapors. It’s about 5 times larger than that of our familiar large solar system planet.

“It’s five times fainter than any other object detected with ground-based spectroscopy at this wavelength,” Skemer said. “Now that we have a spectrum, we can really start thinking about what’s going on in this object. Our spectrum shows that WISE 0855 is dominated by water vapor and clouds, with an overall appearance that is strikingly similar to Jupiter.”

WISE 0855 has a temperature of about 250 Kelvin, which compares to Jupiter’s 130 Kelvin. The similarities in chemical makeup and temperature mean that we might be able to learn a lot about the two by comparing them to one another.

This isn't the first time that scientists have found a link between large gassy planets and brown dwarfs. Scientists have long thought that there were similarities between the two, but we currently know so little about brown drwarfs because they're hard to spot. At only 7.2 light years away, WISE 0855 provides the a great opportunity to learn more about them.
 
Source: University of California, Santa Cruz

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
AUG 24, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Asteroid May Collide With Earth in November
AUG 24, 2020
Asteroid May Collide With Earth in November
NASA has said that an asteroid known as 2018VP1 is heading towards Earth, and may potentially collide with our planet on ...
AUG 27, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Space Rock May Contain Building Blocks for DNA
AUG 27, 2020
Space Rock May Contain Building Blocks for DNA
Researchers say that a space rock that landed in Costa Rica on April 23rd, 2019, came from an asteroid that exists as a ...
SEP 17, 2020
Space & Astronomy
What the Sun's New Weather Cycle Means for Earth
SEP 17, 2020
What the Sun's New Weather Cycle Means for Earth
Scientists have confirmed that the sun is nine months into a new solar cycle, and that this 11-year cycle will resemble ...
OCT 21, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Why Some Astronauts Get Blurry Vision After Spaceflight
OCT 21, 2020
Why Some Astronauts Get Blurry Vision After Spaceflight
Researchers from the University of Antwerp in Belgium have found that the fluid surrounding the brain, known as craniosp ...
OCT 27, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Researchers Discover a Planet That "Shouldn't Exist"
OCT 27, 2020
Researchers Discover a Planet That "Shouldn't Exist"
Neptune was once known as a gas giant, but after scientists found that it was composed of heavy and volatile elements it ...
NOV 26, 2020
Space & Astronomy
China to Obtain First Lunar Samples Since 1976
NOV 26, 2020
China to Obtain First Lunar Samples Since 1976
On November 23, 2020, China launched its unmanned Chang'e-5 spacecraft on a mission to the Moon to bring fresh lunar ...
Loading Comments...