Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Astronomers find extreme weather on an alien world: Cosmic oddball may harbor a gigantic storm

Date:
September 13, 2011
Source:
University of Toronto
Summary:
A University of Toronto-led team of astronomers has observed extreme brightness changes on a nearby brown dwarf that may indicate a storm grander than any seen yet on a planet. Because old brown dwarfs and giant planets have similar atmospheres, this finding could shed new light on weather phenomena of extra-solar planets.

Astronomers have observed extreme brightness changes on a nearby brown dwarf that may indicate a storm grander than any seen yet on a planet. This finding could new shed light on the atmospheres and weather on extra-solar planets.
Credit: Art by Jon Lomberg

A University of Toronto-led team of astronomers has observed extreme brightness changes on a nearby brown dwarf that may indicate a storm grander than any seen yet on a planet. Because old brown dwarfs and giant planets have similar atmospheres, this finding could shed new light on weather phenomena of extra-solar planets.

Related Articles


As part of a large survey of nearby brown dwarfs -- objects that occupy the mass gap between dwarf stars and giant planets -- the scientists used an infrared camera on the 2.5m telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile to capture repeated images of a brown dwarf dubbed 2MASS J21392676+0220226, or 2MASS 2139 for short, over several hours. In that short time span, they recorded the largest variations in brightness ever seen on a cool brown dwarf.

"We found that our target's brightness changed by a whopping 30 per cent in just under eight hours," said PhD candidate Jacqueline Radigan, lead author of a paper to be presented this week at the Extreme Solar Systems II conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and submitted to the Astrophysical Journal. "The best explanation is that brighter and darker patches of its atmosphere are coming into our view as the brown dwarf spins on its axis," said Radigan.

"We might be looking at a gigantic storm raging on this brown dwarf, perhaps a grander version of the Great Red Spot on Jupiter in our own solar system, or we may be seeing the hotter, deeper layers of its atmosphere through big holes in the cloud deck," said co-author Professor Ray Jayawardhana, Canada Research Chair in Observational Astrophysics at the University of Toronto and author of the recent book Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets and Life beyond Our Solar System.

According to theoretical models, clouds form in brown dwarf and giant planet atmospheres when tiny dust grains made of silicates and metals condense. The depth and profile of 2MASS 2139's brightness variations changed over weeks and months, suggesting that cloud patterns in its atmosphere are evolving with time.

"Measuring how quickly cloud features change in brown dwarf atmospheres may allow us to infer atmospheric wind speeds eventually and teach us about how winds are generated in brown dwarf and planetary atmospheres," Radigan added.

Other co-authors of this work are David Lafrenière and Étienne Artigau at the Université de Montreal, Didier Saumon at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Mark Marely at NASA Ames Research Center.

The research was supported by a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship awarded to Radigan, and a Research Tools and Instrumentation grant, a Discovery grant, a Steacie Fellowship and the Canada Research Chairs program, all awarded to Jayawardhana from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Toronto. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jacqueline Radigan, Ray Jayawardhana, David Lafreniere, Etienne Artigau, Mark Marley, Didier Saumon. High Amplitude, Periodic Variability of a Cool Brown Dwarf: Evidence for Patchy, High-Contrast Cloud Features. Astrophysical Journal, 2011; (submitted)

Cite This Page:

University of Toronto. "Astronomers find extreme weather on an alien world: Cosmic oddball may harbor a gigantic storm." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110912143357.htm>.
University of Toronto. (2011, September 13). Astronomers find extreme weather on an alien world: Cosmic oddball may harbor a gigantic storm. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110912143357.htm
University of Toronto. "Astronomers find extreme weather on an alien world: Cosmic oddball may harbor a gigantic storm." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110912143357.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — An invisible barrier is keeping dangerous super fast electrons from interfering with our atmosphere, but scientists aren't entirely sure how. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's First 3-D Printer In Space Creates Its First Object

NASA's First 3-D Printer In Space Creates Its First Object

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) — The International Space Station is now using a proof-of-concept 3D printer to test additive printing in a weightless, isolated environment. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) — Take a stab at this -- stunt video shows a lamb chop's journey from an east London restaurant over 30 kilometers into space. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Soyuz Spacecraft Docks With International Space Station: NASA

Soyuz Spacecraft Docks With International Space Station: NASA

AFP (Nov. 24, 2014) — A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Italy's first female astronaut safely docks with the International Space Station, according to NASA. Duration: 00:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins