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Space & Astronomy

Distant water clouds detected for first time

By T.K. Randall
July 9, 2016 · Comment icon 4 comments

The brown dwarf WISE 0855 is relatively close by. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
Scientists have identified water clouds around a brown dwarf star that is 7.2 light years from the Earth.
The discovery, which was made by a team at the University of California-Santa Cruz, represents the first time water clouds have ever been conclusively picked up outside of our own solar system.

They were found around WISE 0855 - a brown dwarf star around five times the mass of Jupiter.
The find confirms earlier observations made back in 2014 of possible water clouds around the star using NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) telescope.

The new research involved observing the star with the Gemini-North telescope in Hawaii over the course of 13 nights to obtain the first ever spectrum measurements of its atmosphere.

"Our spectrum shows that WISE 0855 is dominated by water vapor and clouds, with an overall appearance that is strikingly similar to Jupiter," said astrophysicist Andrew Skemer.

Source: The Verge | Comments (4)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Astra. 8 years ago
It's simply amazing how they keep discovering these awesome assortment of celestial bodies outside our own solar system. I mean seriously - the mind boggles as to what more is out there beyond the next solar system - and the next one after that and so on and so on.....
Comment icon #2 Posted by Hawkin 8 years ago
7.2 light years. That's at our back door when making a comparison to our galaxy.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 8 years ago
Indeed. The only known stars closer to the solar system are the Alpha Centauri system, Barnard's Star and the binary brown dwarf system Luhman 16.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Mystic Crusader 8 years ago
This week, a team of astronomers led out of UC Santa Cruz released a report on the brown dwarf WISE0855, by far the dimmest object ever imaged in its spectral range. Their results confirm a preexisting assumption that brown dwarfs ought to be capable of supporting enough water to create phenomena like water clouds. http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/231325-astronomers-discover-the-first-water-clouds-outside-our-solar-system

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