The first evidence of water ice clouds on an object outside of our own Solar System, discovered. Water ice clouds exist on our own gas giant planets–Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune–but have not been seen outside of the planets orbiting our Sun until now.
The discovery of the Water Ice Clouds by a team of scientists led by Carnegie’s Jacqueline Faherty, has been published by Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Above: Artist’s conception of brown dwarf WISE J085510.83-071442.5, which may host water ice clouds in its atmosphere. Credit: Rob Gizis (CUNY BMCC / YouTube
The astronomy team says it may have spotted water ice clouds in a brown dwarf (an object between the size of a planet and a star) that is relatively close to our solar system. The find is tentative and also in an object that likely does not host life, but it’s hoped that telescopes may get better at examining atmospheres in the future.
The object is called WISE J085510.83-071442.5, or W0855 for short. It’s the coldest brown dwarf ever detected, with an average temperature between 225 degrees Kelvin (-55 Fahrenheit, or -48 Celsius) and 265 Kelvin (17 Fahrenheit, or -8 Celsius.) It’s believed to be about three to 10 times the mass of Jupiter.
Astronomers looked at W0855 with an infrared mosaic imager on the 6.5-meter Magellan Baade telescope, which is located at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. The team obtained 151 images across three nights in May 2014.
Video produced and directed by Brian Patrick Abbott.
The authors wrote:
“Non-equilibrium chemistry or non-solar metallicity may change predictions. However, using currently available model approaches, this is the first candidate outside our own solar system to have direct evidence for water clouds.”
Read more at the research that was published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.