Jan 29 You think the weather is bad on Earth
lately. On Luhman 16B, a hybrid planet-star located 6.7 light
years away, scientists say it's raining molten iron, research
released on Wednesday shows.
The first weather maps from this dim, gaseous object known
as a brown dwarf, show a complex structure of patchy clouds,
comprised of liquid iron and other minerals stewing in scorching
temperatures, a pair of studies show.
Computer models indicate that as a brown dwarfs cools,
liquid droplets containing iron and other minerals form in their
atmospheres. The new studies indicate the droplets gather into
patchy clouds, which then rain down.
Brown dwarfs are bigger than Jupiter-sized planets, but too
small for nuclear fusion, the signature process that gives a
star its shine. Also known as "failed stars," brown dwarfs are
born hot and emit faint but telltale infrared light as they
Temperatures in the clouds of Luhman 16B, for example, are
1,700 degrees Fahrenheit (927 degrees Celsius).
Only a few hundred or so brown dwarfs have been found so
Scientists devised an innovative technique that not only
could detect how Luhman 16B, located 40 trillion miles (64
trillion km), varied in brightness, but also whether light and
dark features were moving toward or away from observing
The information was then compiled into cloud maps.
"Soon, we will be able to watch cloud patterns form, evolve
and dissipate on this brown dwarf," astronomer Ian Crossfield,
with the Max Planck Institute in Germany, said in a statement.
Scientists expect to use similar techniques to understand
the weather and composition of planets beyond the solar system.
The studies are published in the journals Nature and the
Astrophysical Journal Letters.
(Editing by David Adams, Kevin Gray and Andrew Hay)