Elizabeth Howell
January 29, 2014

The first-ever “weather map” of a brown dwarf will lead to a better understanding of exoplanet temperatures and atmospheres, astronomers say.

Dark and light features were mapped on WISE J104915.57-531906.1B using the European Space Agency’s Very Large Telescope. The brown dwarf (known more informally as Luhman 16B) is one of a pair that is just six light-years from Earth. Astronomers targeted Luhman 16B because they could see brightness changes as it rotated, implying that it had surface features.

“Previous observations suggested that brown dwarfs might have mottled surfaces, but now we can actually map them,” stated Ian Crossfield, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany who led the research.

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