Free Newsletters - Space News - Defense Alert - Environment Report - Energy Monitor
. 24/7 Space News .




STELLAR CHEMISTRY
NASA's Spitzer Probes Weather on Brown Dwarfs
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Jan 12, 2014


This artist's concept shows what the weather might look like on cool star-like bodies known as brown dwarfs. These giant balls of gas start out life like stars, but lack the mass to sustain nuclear fusion at their cores, and instead, fade and cool with time. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Western Ontario/Stony Brook University.

Swirling, stormy clouds may be ever-present on cool celestial orbs called brown dwarfs. New observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope suggest that most brown dwarfs are roiling with one or more planet-size storms akin to Jupiter's "Great Red Spot."

"As the brown dwarfs spin on their axis, the alternation of what we think are cloud-free and cloudy regions produces a periodic brightness variation that we can observe," said Stanimir Metchev of the University of Western Ontario, Canada. "These are signs of patchiness in the cloud cover."

Metchev is principal investigator of the brown dwarf research. The results were presented at a news conference at the 223rd annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington by Metchev's colleague, Aren Heinze, of Stony Brook University, New York.

Brown dwarfs form as stars do, but lack the mass to fuse atoms continually and blossom into full-fledged stars. They are, in some ways, the massive kin to Jupiter.

Scientists think that the cloudy regions on brown dwarfs take the form of torrential storms, accompanied by winds and, possibly, lightning more violent than that at Jupiter or any other planet in our solar system. However, the brown dwarfs studied so far are too hot for water rain; instead, astronomers believe the rain in these storms, like the clouds themselves, is made of hot sand, molten iron or salts.

In a Spitzer program named "Weather on Other Worlds," astronomers used the infrared space telescope to watch 44 brown dwarfs as they rotated on their axis for up to 20 hours. Previous results had suggested that some brown dwarfs have turbulent weather, so the scientists had expected to see a small fraction vary in brightness over time.

However, to their surprise, half of the brown dwarfs showed the variations. When you take into account that half of the objects would be oriented in such a way that their storms would be either hidden or always in view and unchanging, the results indicate that most, if not all, brown dwarfs are racked by storms.

"We needed Spitzer to do this," said Metchev. "Spitzer is in space, above the thermal glow of the Earth's atmosphere, and it has the sensitivity required to see variations in the brown dwarfs' brightness."

The results led to another surprise as well. Some of the brown dwarfs rotated much more slowly than any previously measured, a finding that could not have been possible without Spitzer's long, uninterrupted observations from space. Astronomers had thought that brown dwarfs sped up to very fast rotations when they formed and contracted, and that this rotation didn't wind down with age.

"We don't yet know why these particular brown dwarfs spin so slowly, but several interesting possibilities exist," said Heinze. "A brown dwarf that rotates slowly may have formed in an unusual way -- or it may even have been slowed down by the gravity of a yet-undiscovered planet in a close orbit around it."

The work may lead to a better understanding of not just brown dwarfs but their "little brothers": the gas-giant planets. Researchers say that studying the weather on brown dwarfs will open new windows onto weather on planets outside our solar system, which are harder to study under the glare of their stars. Brown dwarfs are weather laboratories for planets, and, according to the new results, those laboratories are everywhere.

Other researchers on the team include: Daniel Apai and Davin Flateau of the University of Arizona, Tucson; Mark Marley of NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field; Jacqueline Radigan of the Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.; Etienne Artigau of Universite de Montreal, Canada; Adam Burgasser of University of California San Diego; Peter Plavchan of NASA's Exoplanet Science Institute at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena; and Bertrand Goldman of Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy, Germany.

.


Related Links
Spitzer at Caltech
Spitzer at NASA
Stellar Chemistry, The Universe And All Within It






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Quasars illuminate swiftly swirling clouds around galaxies
Champaign IL (SPX) Jan 12, 2014
A new study of light from quasars has provided astronomers with illuminating insights into the swirling clouds of gas that form stars and galaxies, proving that the clouds can shift and change much more quickly than previously thought. Led by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign astronomy professor Robert J. Brunner and former graduate student Troy Hacker (now with the U.S. Air Force ... read more


STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Internet Radio Provides Musical Space-Weather Reports from NASA's LRO Mission

Moon rover, lander wake after lunar night

India to launch second mission to moon by 2017

Wake Up Yutu

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Mars Orbiter Images Rover and Tracks in Gale Crater

Ten-Years Roving About On Mars

Who Wants to Go to Mars - One Way?

More than 1,000 chosen for one-way Mars reality-TV mission

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Earthly politicians seek roadmap for space exploration

Internet of Things poses new security risks

China, US move toward cooperation in space

SciTechTalk: New year, new technology

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Official: China's space policy open to world

China launches communications satellite for Bolivia

China's moon rover continues lunar survey after photographing lander

China's Yutu "naps", awakens and explores

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Orbital's cargo ship arrives at space station

Cygnus Work Under Way, Normal Station Operations Continue

Obama Administration Extends ISS Until at Least 2024

NASA extends space station life to 2024

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Vega Flight VV03 And Ariane Flight VA218

Competiveness, quality and launcher family evolution are the keywords for Arianespace in 2014 and beyond

Orbital Sciences launches second mission to space station

Cygnus Heads to Space for First Station Resupply Mission

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
NASA's Kepler Provides Insights on Enigmatic Planets

Powerful Planet Finder Turns Its Eye to the Sky

New kind of planet or failed star? Astrophysicists discover category-defying celestial object

SF State astronomers discover new planet in Pisces constellation

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
SimCity coming down from the "cloud"

Starting Fire With Water

Towards perfect control of light waves

GPM Completes Spacecraft Alignments




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement