Clouds on nearby brown dwarf mapped

Technique that revealed failed star’s weather could do the same for exoplanets

By Gabriel Popkin, 18:10 PM January 28, 2014

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One of the first maps of clouds on an object outside the solar system appears in the Jan. 30 Nature.

The clouds surround Luhman 16B, a brown dwarf just 6.5 light-years away in the constellation Vela. Brown dwarfs are gaseous objects larger than planets but too small to fuse hydrogen as true stars do. Previous studies hinted that brown dwarfs’ ultrahot atmospheres contain clouds of molten iron and silicates.

To see Luhman 16B’s clouds, a team led by Ian Crossfield of the Max Planck...

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