Astronomers have used polarized light to detect signs of cloud bands in the atmospheres of brown dwarfs far beyond the solar system,media New Atlas reported. It turns out that these brown dwarfs look similar to Jupiter and have the same varied climate. A brown dwarf, with a mass between a planet and a star, is a mysterious celestial body. They form in the same way as stars, when clouds of gas and dust collapse under their own gravity. The star eventually collects enough mass to generate enormous pressure and heat to ignite the core with nuclear fusion.
But brown dwarfs are gaseous objects of low mass that are not good enough to ignite fusion reactions at the core. Although eventually they are much larger than Jupiter—- in fact, they are 80 times the mass of Jupiter—- but that is still not enough to make them stars. Now a new study shows how much brown dwarfs look like Jupiter. A team of astronomers used Chile’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) to look for signs of clouds in the atmosphere of Luhman 16A, the nearest brown dwarf planet to Earth. It is part of a system of brown dwarf shimtitas located just 6.5 light-years from Earth.
The team studied the object by measuring the polarization of light from it. Light radiated from its warm surface is scattered to molecules in the atmosphere, polarizing it in some way. The polarization instrument, the “astronomer’s sunglasses” described by the team, can tell whether the polarization is uniform across the celestial body or, in some places, stronger than others.
In this case, the signal is stronger in some parts, indicating that the cloud band has a striped cloud band on Luhman 16A. However, it does not reveal how many bands there are. To find out, the researchers modeled different cloud belt patterns, with the photocopies of brown dwarfs closest to two large bands of cloud bands.
This pattern is similar to what we saw on Jupiter. The model also shows that these bands create storms where silicate or ammonia is produced when it rains. As current research is evidence of concept, the team says studying polarized light could help us better understand the habitability of cloud bands, atmospheres, and, ultimately, exoplanets. This may be very valuable for the search for extraterrestrial life.
“Polarized light is very sensitive to cloud properties, whether it’s brown dwarfs or exoplanets,” said Maxwell Millar-Blanchaer, lead author of the study. “This is the first time that it has really been used to understand the properties of clouds outside the solar system. “
The study was published in the Astrophysical Journal.