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Atom & Cosmos

Alien extreme weather, nature vs. nurture in stars and more in this week’s news

12:30pm, September 27, 2011

Extreme weather on a brown dwarf
Severe weather may be common in the solar system – think Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a raging, enormous thunderstorm on Saturn, tornadoes and hurricanes on Earth – but until recently, astronomers had spotted few storms beyond the solar system. Now, a team led by researchers at the University of Toronto describes a gigantic storm clouding the skies of the brown dwarf 2MASS J21392676+0220226, about 40 light-years away.  The astronomers reported September 12 at the Extreme Solar Systems II meeting in Moran, Wyoming that the failed star’s brightness fluctuated by as much as 30 percent, which could be due to extreme variations in its atmosphere and cloud cover.  —Nadia Drake

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