NASA measures wind speed on the surface of a brown dwarf star

Shane McGlaun - Apr 10, 2020, 8:57 am CDT
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NASA measures wind speed on the surface of a brown dwarf star

NASA has announced a groundbreaking measurement of a celestial object called a brown dwarf star. A brown dwarf is described as an in-betweener that’s not quite a star and not quite a planet. These objects are larger than Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, but not quite massive enough to become a star.

To measure the wind speed, NASA used a method that it says could be applied to learn about the atmospheres of other gas-dominated planets outside our solar system. Scientists used measurements taken from a group of radio telescopes with data from the recently retired NASA infrared observatory, the Spitzer Space Telescope.

The brown dwarf NASA measured is called 2MASS J10475385+2124234 and is 32 light-years from Earth. Measurements taken showed that the winds were moving around the planet at 1425 mph. That is extremely fast compared to winds that have been measured on planets in our solar system. Neptune has the fastest winds in our solar system measured at over 1200 mph.

The term “wind” refers to something a bit different on a brown dwarf than it does on a planet. The upper layers of a brown door for where portions of the gas can move independently, at a certain depth, the pressure becomes so intense gas behaves like a single solid ball that is considered the object’s interior. When the interior rotates, it pulls the upper layers along with the two are almost in sync.

In the study, the research team measured a slight difference in the speed of the brown dwarf’s atmosphere relative to the interior. The atmospheric temperature was over 1100 degrees Fahrenheit, and they say that this particular brown dwarf radiates substantial amounts of infrared light. NASA’s new study is the first to demonstrate a comparative method for measuring wind speed on a brown dwarf. Currently, the team is working to gauge the accuracy of their measurements using infrared radio observations of Jupiter.


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