Weather of a “failed-star”

Astronomers have studied the strange weather of a so-called “failed star” in a fairly good detail with the help of NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes. The star is referred to as failed as it is a brown dwarf, with a lengthy name of 2MASS J22282889-431026 that is larger than planets but not able to undergo fusion reactions like other stars. Although brown dwarfs are cooler than the conventional stars but they are still very hot. The estimated temperature of the studied brown dwarf is in the range of 1,100 and 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit (600 to 700 degrees Celsius).

Artist’s rendition of the atmosphere of the brown dwarf (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

“From studies such as this we will learn much about this important class of objects, whose mass falls between that of stars and Jupiter-sized planets,” said Glenn Wahlgren, Spitzer program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Astronomers have found that the windy clouds have covered the massive celestial object that is strange and captivating, according to the researchers.

“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,” study co-author Mark Marley, of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., said in a statement. “So this large atmospheric disturbance found by Spitzer and Hubble gives a new meaning to the concept of extreme weather.”

Researchers used different wavelengths of light to check the movement of clouds at any given time and found that the storms of the size of the Earth are moving through the atmosphere.

“What we see here is evidence for massive, organized cloud systems, perhaps akin to giant versions of the Great Red Spot on Jupiter,” co-author Adam Showman of the University of Arizona said in a statement.

“These out-of-sync light variations provide a fingerprint of how the brown dwarf’s weather systems stack up vertically,” Showman added. “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.”

These findings have been presented at the American Astronomical Society on 8th January.


Buenzli, E., Apai, D., Morley, C., Flateau, D., Showman, A., Burrows, A., Marley, M., Lewis, N., & Reid, I. (2012). VERTICAL ATMOSPHERIC STRUCTURE IN A VARIABLE BROWN DWARF: PRESSURE-DEPENDENT PHASE SHIFTS IN SIMULTANEOUS HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE-SPITZER LIGHT CURVES The Astrophysical Journal, 760 (2) DOI: 10.1088/2041-8205/760/2/L31

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