Published on January 16th, 2013 | by Duncan Riley0
NASA Views Weather Patterns on a Brown Dwarf
NASA astronomers have for the first time seen weather patterns on a Brown Dwarf, also body also know as a failed star or hybrid planet-star.
Brown dwarfs are substellar objects too low in mass to sustain hydrogen-1 fusion reactions in their cores, unlike main-sequence stars such as our sun, which can.
Using the Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes, the astronomers probed the stormy atmosphere of brown dwarf 2MASSJ22282889-431026, to create detailed “weather map” for the brown dwarf.
They found that its light varied over time, brightening and dimming roughly every 90 minutes as it rotated. The team also found the timing of this change in brightness depended on whether they looked using different wavelengths of infrared light.
The forecast shows wind-driven, planet-sized clouds enshrouding the failed star.
“Unlike the water clouds of Earth or the ammonia clouds of Jupiter, clouds on brown dwarfs are composed of hot grains of sand, liquid drops of iron, and other exotic compounds,” said Mark Marley, research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and co-author of the paper. “So this large atmospheric disturbance found by Spitzer and Hubble gives a new meaning to the concept of extreme weather.”
“What we see here is evidence for massive, organized cloud systems, perhaps akin to giant versions of the Great Red Spot on Jupiter,” said Adam Showman, a theorist at the University of Arizona involved in the research. “These out-of-sync light variations provide a fingerprint of how the brown dwarf’s weather systems stack up vertically. The data suggest regions on the brown dwarf where the weather is cloudy and rich in silicate vapor deep in the atmosphere coincide with balmier, drier conditions at higher altitudes — and vice versa.”
The picture above is an artist impression of what the Brown Dwarf would look like, complete with weather.
(picture and quote credit: NASA)