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Space Science

First Global Map Outside the Solar System 19

Posted by timothy
from the faked-just-like-the-moon-landings dept.
First time accepted submitter Kreuzfeld writes "For many years, astronomers have suspected that brown dwarfs — 'failed stars' with masses between those of planets and stars — have cloudy atmospheres. Our recent paper in Nature presents the first global, 2D map of the patchy clouds in the atmosphere of a brown dwarf: our neighbor, the 6.5 light-years-distant Luhman 16B. Eventually, astronomers will use this technique to make weather movies of global cloud patterns on brown dwarfs and extrasolar planets."
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First Global Map Outside the Solar System

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  • How is this a "global map" ? It seems at best to be an "atmospheric" map, which I'm sure is interesting although usually a bunch of clouds that never stop moving.
  • curious orientation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by somepunk (720296) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @02:15PM (#46112285) Homepage

    The large scale structure seems to stretch between the poles, at fairly constant longitude, rather than around the axis at fairly constant latitude, like every other atmosphere we've encountered. Is there some reason they are really that way, or is it some artifact of the data gathering and rerduction?

    • by Kreuzfeld (308371) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @02:37PM (#46112517)

      Good question! Atmospheric scientists aren't actually sure yet whether brown dwarfs should have "bands" like we see on Jupiter and other Solar system gas giants (this was discussed at a meeting in Washington, D.C. Jan 2014) -- and our mapping data wasn't quite sensitive enough to definitively answer that question. (We're less sensitive to axisymmetric features than we are to longitudinal variations). The vertical "stretching" of the map's features toward the poles is an unavoidable artifact of our analysis technique [wikipedia.org]. Cloud patterns may be less elongated than they appear!

    • by fyngyrz (762201)

      The large scale structure seems to stretch between the poles

      That's pretty normal for two testicles as well, you know. Although I'm only familiar with monopole structure.

    • by PPH (736903)
      It sort of makes sense if you read the way that the atmosphere is being mapped. Using the Doppler shift to detect when a brighter spot is approaching or receding can give some data on the longitude of these spots. The latitude data may be more difficult (but not impossible) to deduce.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This map is 6.5 years old already.

  • Will it be possible to import this map into Starcraft? A DLC, even?
  • As there are different types of dwarf planets (such as brown dwarf), what different types are there and how do we differentiate from them?

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