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सेमिनार: अंग्रेज़ी सीखने का अवसर (23 सितंबर: दोपहर 3 बजे)
First Water Ice Clouds Found Outside Our Solar System
Jan 23, 2015

Scientists have discovered the first evidence of water ice clouds on an object outside of our own solar system, about 7.3 light-years away from Earth. Water ice clouds exist on our own gas giant planets–Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune but have not been seen outside of the planets orbiting our Sun until now.

The team led by Jacqueline Faherty of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington used a near infrared camera at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile to detect the coldest brown dwarf ever characterised.

  • Their findings are the result of 151 images taken over three nights.

  • The object, named W0855, was first seen by NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Explorer mission.

  • This object is very faint.

  • Brown dwarfs aren’t quite very small stars, but they aren’t quite giant planets either.

  • They are too small to sustain the hydrogen fusion process that fuels stars.

  • Their temperatures can range from nearly as hot as a star to as cool as a planet, and their masses also range between star-like and giant planet-like.

  • They are of particular interest to scientists because they offer clues to star-formation processes.

  • They also overlap with the temperatures of planets, but are much easier to study since they are commonly found in isolation.

  • W0855 is the fourth-closest system to our own Sun, practically a next-door neighbour in astronomical distances.

  • A comparison of the near-infrared images of W0855 with models for predicting the atmospheric content of brown dwarfs showed evidence of frozen clouds of sulfide and water.

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.

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