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First Water Clouds Reported Outside The Solar System (scientificamerican.com) 41

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American: For the first time ever, astronomers have found strong evidence of water clouds on a body outside the solar system. New observations of a frigid object called WISE 0855, which lies 7.2 light-years from Earth, suggest that the "failed star" has clouds of water, or water ice, in its atmosphere, the researchers said. "We would expect an object that cold to have water clouds, and this is the best evidence that it does," study lead author Andrew Skemer, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said in a statement released by the university. Scientists discovered WISE 0855 in 2014, using data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft. A later paper in 2014 (co-authored by Skemer) uncovered some evidence of water clouds in the object's atmosphere, based on limited photometric data (how bright the object is in specific light wavelengths). In the new study, Skemer and his colleagues used the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii to study the brown dwarf for 13 nights. Gemini North is located on the highest Hawaiian mountain (Mauna Kea), at an altitude with little water vapor to interfere with telescopic observations. These observations allowed the astronomers to make the first spectroscopy (light fingerprint) measurements of WISE 0855. The team found water vapor and also confirmed the object's temperature, which is about minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 degrees Celsius, or 250 kelvins).
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First Water Clouds Reported Outside The Solar System

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  • Does that mean the Solar system is gonna have rain soon?

    • Well, since this was not supposed to be funny (hopefully), the answer is no ; for starters, the clouds are more than 7 light years away, far outside our solar system.
  • You travel years all across the galaxy and, when eventually you go out of your spaceship, it rains!
  • ... the Seattle city council passes a resolution making WISE 0855 a sister city.

  • by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Saturday July 09, 2016 @01:56PM (#52478447) Journal

    [...] the "failed star" has clouds of water, or water ice, in its atmosphere.

    And that's why it's a failed star. You know what water does to fire...

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