The L.A. Times reports that researchers using the Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes have discovered an astronomical first: a low-mass star with a huge, persistent, swirling surface feature
akin to the long-lived storm on Jupiter
. The star, W1906+40 , is cool enough ("a mere 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit or so") to allow cloud formation. A slice:
This star was first spotted by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (or WISE) in 2011; study leader John Gizis of the University of Delaware, Newark and colleagues then looked through NASA's Kepler data to further examine the star. (It just so happened that Kepler was pointing in the right direction to spot the L-dwarf.) ... "The long life of the cloud is in contrast with weather changes seen in cooler brown dwarfs on the timescale of hours and days," they wrote.
In fact, the researchers believe the storm has been going strong for at least two years — a stability they seemed to find slightly baffling.
"Evidently the W1906+40 spot is very long-lived compared to the 'weather' features in cooler L and T dwarfs," they wrote. "Why would the clouds in W1906+40 be stable?"