Using the James Webb telescope, astronomers discover sand clouds in the atmosphere of a failed star

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A study conducted with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) confirmed the existence of rock sand cloudsor as the investigation details, silicate clouds in the atmosphere of a brown dwarf, known as failed stars.

The discovery marks the first time such clouds have been found on a failed planetary-mass star outside the Solar System, according to an international team of astronomers led by Brittany Miles of the University of California.

According to the study submitted to AAS, available on arXiv and cited in Science Alert, the findings could help us better understand failed stars and represent just a preview of what JWST can do.

The observations obtained are from a brown dwarf about 72 light-years away called VHS 1256-1257 bdiscovered in 2015.

What is a brown dwarf or failed star?

These objects are generated when a baby star does not accumulate enough mass to start hydrogen fusion in its core and they occupy the mass regime between the largest planets and the smallest stars.

Nevertheless, with about 13.6 times the mass of Jupiterbrown dwarfs can fuse deuterium or heavy hydrogen: hydrogen with one proton and one neutron in the nucleus, rather than a single proton, as the report explains.

The fusion pressure and temperature of deuterium are lower than those of hydrogen, which means that brown dwarfs are like ‘lite’ stars. This means that, unlike exoplanets, brown dwarfs emit their own heat and light.

brown dwarf

The above picture is taken by JWST shows the reddish atmosphere surrounding the failed star, with a mass 19 times that of Jupiter.

This color cast has previously been attributed to clouds in young brown dwarfs, so the team took infrared spectra to see if they could determine the brown dwarf’s composition.

The team found that the atmospheric composition of VHS 1256-1257 b was similar to that of other brown dwarfs studied at infrared wavelengths, but much lighter.

The researchers added: “Water, methane, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sodium, and potassium are observed in various portions of the JWST spectrum based on comparisons of template brown dwarf spectra, molecular opacities, and atmospheric models”.

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