First Water Ice Clouds Found Beyond Our Solar System
For the first time, astronomers have detected water ice clouds, like the ones that shroud Earth, around a dim celestial body outside of our solar system.
Image:Astronomers have detected traces of water ice clouds in the atmosphere of the brown dwarf WISE 0855, a misfit failed star about 7.2 light-years from Earth. The discovery is the first time water ice clouds have been found beyond the solar system, scientists sayCredit:Rob Gizis (CUNY BMCC) via Carnegie Institution/YouTube
Scientists discovered evidence of the alien water ice clouds in infrared images of a newly discovered brown dwarf that’s as cold as the North Pole.
"Ice clouds are predicted to be very important in the atmospheres of planets beyond our solar system, but they’ve never been observed outside of it before now," study leader Jacqueline Faherty, who is a fellow at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., said in a statement.
Ice water has been found around gas giants in our solar system. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft recently detected water ice crystals on Saturn that had been churned up from deep inside the ringed planet’s thick atmosphere during a huge storm. Water ice clouds are also hidden underneath Jupiter’s stormy ammonia ice clouds.
Now, scientists found faint signatures of such clouds around the brown dwarf WISE J085510.83-071442.5, or W0855 for short. The object is the coldest brown dwarf ever observed by scientists. It lurks 7.2 light-years away from Earth and was first seen by NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Explorer.