clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Water clouds have been detected outside of the solar system for the first time

New, 7 comments

Only 7.2 light-years away from Earth

NASA/JPL-Caltech

A team lead by astronomers at University of California-Santa Cruz has found strong evidence of water clouds outside of the solar system for the first time.

"Our spectrum shows that WISE 0855 is dominated by water vapor and clouds, with an overall appearance that is strikingly similar to Jupiter," Andrew Skemer, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics, said in a statement on the university's website.

WISE 0855 is a brown dwarf, or failed star, that is 7.2 light-years from Earth and is five times the mass of Jupiter. It has a temperature of minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (250 degrees Kelvin), which, in unscientific terms, makes it one of the coldest masses of its type found in space.

According to UCSC, earlier observations of the failed star from 2014 indicated that there might be water clouds around the object, but it was based on limited photometric data (measuring luminous intensity). In this case, the team observed the brown dwarf using the Gemini-North telescope in Hawaii over 13 nights, for a total of 14 hours, and were able to get the first spectrum measurements of the failed star. Scientific American points out that the telescope is located on the highest mountain in Hawaii, which means there is less vapor to interfere with telescopic observations.


Earth-sized exoplanet found orbiting nearby star