An isolated brown dwarf that doesn’t orbit a star shows possible signs of aurorae. The discovery was made by the James Webb Space Telescope research team and was detailed in a new report on the Webb Telescope website.
According to the report, astronomers using James Webb found a brown dwarf (a cosmic object that is more massive than Jupiter but smaller than a star) with no nearby star. The astronomers were therefore baffled when they found possible signs of aurorae in the brown dwarf.
Auroras are produced on Earth when energetic particles captured by our planet’s magnetism are captured. This causes the particles to descend through the atmosphere near our planet’s poles, creating beautiful light shows as they collide with gas molecules. But this isolated brown dwarf has no star.
The scientists are puzzled that the infrared emission from the methane present in the atmosphere of the brown dwarf suggests an auroral heating process. Now, it is possible that a nearby active moon or interstellar plasma could be causing the heating that we’re seeing here. But scientists aren’t sure.
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The discovery of these signs on the isolated brown dwarf, known more formerly as W1935, was made by a team led by astronomy Jackie Faherty. The team was awarded a study of 12 cold brown dwarfs — they are called cold because they lack a host star.
W1395 was one of these 12 brown dwarfs. Faherty says that the team expected to see methane in the brown dwarf because it is usually all over these types of cosmic objects. Instead of seeing the light absorption, they saw exactly the opposite: methane glowing.
Then, the team used computer simulations to determine what could have been responsible for this mission. Since W1935 doesn’t have a host star, the emissions couldn’t be caused by that. They found the model that best favored an inversion of temperature, which warms the atmosphere as it increases altitude.
It’s a puzzling discovery that the astronomers are intrigued to look into more deeply. For now, though, they’ll continue to remain baffled by what exactly caused the isolated brown dwarf to glow with the signs of aurorae. Researchers also recently discovered the tiniest free-floating brown dwarf we’ve ever found.
The post Webb spots possible signs of aurorae in an unlikely place appeared first on BGR.