Washington, Sept 13 (ANI): Extreme fluctuations detected in the brightness of a nearby brown dwarf could be evidence of a storm grander than any yet detected on a planet, and could yield insights into weather systems on exoplanets, Canadian astronomers including one of Indian-origin say.
As part of a large survey of nearby brown dwarfs-objects that occupy the mass gap between dwarf stars and giant planets - scientists from the University of Toronto used an infrared camera on the 2.5-meter telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile to capture repeated images of a brown dwarf dubbed 2MASS 2139 over several hours, recording the largest variations in brightness ever seen on a cool brown dwarf.
"We found that our target's brightness changed by a whopping 30 percent in just under eight hours," said PhD candidate Jacqueline Radigan, lead author of the study.
"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.
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.
"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.
The study will be published in the Astrophysical Journal. (ANI)