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Water clouds discovered on brown dwarf

Posted on Friday, 29 August, 2014 | Comment icon 8 comments

Water clouds could be commonplace on distant worlds. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Astronomers have found evidence of water clouds outside of our own solar system for the first time.
Located at a distance of just 7.3 light years from the Earth, the clouds are situated in the atmosphere of a brown dwarf and were first identified by astronomer Kevin Luhman using NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) telescope.

A brown dwarf is a type of failed star that has too little mass to sustain nuclear reactions. This particular one is about the size of Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system.

While the discovery is still being regarded as "tentative" at the moment, astronomers are quietly confident that this relatively nearby extrasolar body is indeed home to water ice clouds.

"Iíve been obsessed with this object since its discovery," said astronomer Jacqueline Faherty. "At the telescope, Iíve never been so nervous. Iíve never wanted clear conditions so badly."

While the temperatures and atmosphere on the brown dwarf are extremely unlikely to be suitable for life, the discovery still represents a significant step forward in the hunt for habitable worlds.

Source: CBS Local | Comments (8)

Tags: Water Clouds, Brown Dwarf

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by bubblykiss on 26 August, 2014, 16:09
Common sense tells me that if it happened here then it happened elsewhere...however, it is always exciting to think about discoveries like this one.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 26 August, 2014, 16:35
Th3 "like Earth" in the title is pushing it a bit. A brown dwarf is an object very unlike Earth. These objects are half-way between a giant planet and a very small star. Too small for their core to ignite and undergo nuclear fusion but large enough that they generate heat in their core by a process called the Kelvin–Helmholtz mechanism: gravitational compression of the core generates heat. This internal heat can mean that the outer atmosphere can (as seems to be the case here) by similar to that of Earth's, but that is where the similarity ends. Like a gas giant planet ... [More]
Comment icon #3 Posted by StRoostifer on 26 August, 2014, 17:05
Eek, its Nibiru, run for the hills! Jupiter is supposed to be 300X the mass of earth and this brown dwarf is up to 10X the mass of Jupiter! Whoa mama! Pretty cool stuff.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 26 August, 2014, 17:39
A mass 3,000 x the Earth makes it a rather unimpressive object astronomically speaking. The Sun is a dwarf star and that has a mass 333,000 times that of Earth.
Comment icon #5 Posted by paperdyer on 29 August, 2014, 15:11
Probably so, but with the gravitation pull the brown dwarf would have, we'd have a hard time exploring the dwarf from the surface.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 29 August, 2014, 15:15
Gravity is irrelevant, as it's basically a big ball of warm gas it doesn't actually have a surface to explore.
Comment icon #7 Posted by taniwha on 30 August, 2014, 11:07
I wonder what life on these brown dwarfs might look like.

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