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Evidence of Water Clouds Found in Coldest Brown Dwarf WISE 0855

Jul 10, 2016 04:10 AM EDT
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First evidence of water clouds on a cold brown dwarf outside the Solar System was gathered by astronomers.
(Photo : NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle via Getty Images)

Evidence of what appears to be water clouds was found on the coldest object outside the Solar System.

WISE 0855 was discovered in 2014 is known as the brown dwarf. Brown dwarfs are failed stars that were formed the same way as stars but lacks the physical compositions for it to shine.

WISE 0855 is the coldest object outside the Solar System at 7.2 light-years away from Earth. The conditions within the brown dwarf are comparable to that of Jupiter and yet there is strong evidence that suggests water clouds exists on WISE 0855.

Researchers and astronomers from UC Santa Cruz conducted a study by using an infrared spectrum of WISE 0855 using the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii. The spectrum provided the astronomers with the data regarding the composition and chemistry of the WISE 0855. Its water clouds are the first spotted outside the Solar System. "We would expect an object that cold to have water clouds, and this is the best evidence that it does," Andrew Skemer, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics said in a statement published by Daily Mail.

The study was published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. The astronomers said that although the brown dwarf is too faint to be observed, obtaining data from it is not impossible. "It's five times fainter than any other object detected with ground-based spectroscopy at this wavelength," Skemer said in a statement. "Our spectrum shows that WISE 0855 is dominated by water vapor and clouds, with an overall appearance that is strikingly similar to Jupiter," Skemer added.

To study the brown star a broader wavelength than the conventional spectroscopy at optical wavelengths was used. The similar characteristics of WISE 0855 and Jupiter made astronomers hopeful that they could now study the coldest object, almost the same as Jupiter, but outside the Solar System.

Astronomers will continue to study the water clouds found outside the Solar System and how they formed within the coldest environment in their host object.


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