Researchers find evidence of water clouds beyond our solar system

Researchers have discovered evidence of water clouds beyond our solar system for the first time, it has been announced, and they were found in an unlikely place: the cold brown dwarf star WISE 0855. The dwarf was first discovered in 2014, and it is relatively close to our own planet, being only 7.2 lightyears away. Most notably, WISE 0855 is the coldest object humans have yet discovered beyond our solar system, and it is so dim researchers have to use need infrared technologies to see it.

This particular brown dwarf is what the University of California, Santa Cruz calls "essentially a failed star," in that it formed per typical methods but ultimately failed to get enough mass to set off the processes that make a star shine. The dwarf star is explained as having five times Jupiter's mass and a cold temperature of about -10F. For this reason, it receives many comparisons to Jupiter.

Astronomers with the university led a team of fellow researchers in studying the star; in particular, they used the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii to acquire an infrared spectrum of the brown dwarf.

By doing so, the researchers were given their first idea of the dwarf's chemistry and overall composition...including "strong evidence" that the dwarf has clouds with either water or water ice. If that is proven to be true, it'll be a first.

Overall, astronomers used the aforementioned telescope to monitor WISE 0855 for a total duration of ~14 hours over the course of 13 nights. Speaking about this, UC Santa Cruz assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics Andrew Skemer said:

It's five times fainter than any other object detected with ground-based spectroscopy at this wavelength. Now that we have a spectrum, we can really start thinking about what's going on in this object. Our spectrum shows that WISE 0855 is dominated by water vapor and clouds, with an overall appearance that is strikingly similar to Jupiter.

SOURCE: University of California Santa Cruz