Thursday, January 30, 2014

Scientists create brown dwarf weather map

The weather conditions found on a brown dwarf 6.5 light years away have been mapped for the first time.

Brown dwarfs are an unusual class of star that are larger than gas giant planets such as Jupiter but too small for a nuclear fusion cycle to be sustained. Far cooler than main-sequence stars like our sun, the surface conditions on these enigmatic worlds are nonetheless some of the most hellish seen anywhere in the universe.

Now for the first time scientists have used a technique known as Doppler imaging to produce a map of the weather likely to be experienced by someone visiting Luhman 16B, the closest known brown dwarf star.

The results suggest that the surface of this distant world is subjected to temperatures of up to 1,100C while molten iron rain cascades from gaseous metallic clouds high above.

The grim conditions are so bad in fact that Luhman 16B is now considered to be a contender for the "worst weather in the universe".