Voyager 1 at Jupiter – Red spot. Image taken on March 5, 1979
Jupiter isn’t the only celestial object with a swirling storm. NASA astronomers have found a brown dwarf star, named W1906=40, located 53 light-years from Earth with a storm just as impressive. The star has a surface temperature of 1927°C (3500°F), a temperature cool enough for clouds and storms to form.
When astronomers first looked at the star they thought the patterns might be caused by sun spots, but using infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer space telescope revealed it to be a storm. The storm is similar to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, and as far as astronomers know, this storm has lasted for at least two years, but probably longer. It is the best evidence to date of a star having this type of storm. The report was listed last month in The Astrophysical Journal by John Gizis of the University of Delaware, Newark, who is the lead author of the new study about the storm.
Another interesting discovery, this brown dwarf rotates much slower than others previously measured. “We don’t yet know why these particular brown dwarfs spin so slowly, but several interesting possibilities exist,” said Aren Heinze of Stony Brook University, New York. “A brown dwarf that rotates slowly may have formed in an unusual way — or it may even have been slowed down by the gravity of a yet-undiscovered planet in a close orbit around it.” The research will help better understand not just brown dwarf stars, but gas-giant planets like Jupiter.
Interested in learning more about our galaxy and what’s in it? NASA has a great tool to download that lets you explore and learn about Earth, our solar system, the universe and the spacecrafts involved in exploring it. They have applications for Mac, PC and mobile devices. Follow scientists and engineers as they explore with NASA’s Eyes.
The application lets you see the night sky from many of the Earth’s major cities, compare other solar systems to our own, see just how massive our galaxy is, and so much more. It’s a great app for kids of all ages.