Follow-up observations by the 6.5-meter Magellan Baade telescope in Chile by Jacqueline Faherty of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., acquired 151 near-infrared images of the intriguing object, and after comparing radiation generated by the brown dwarf with atmospheric models, astronomers have announced the possible presence of water clouds high in the dwarf planet's atmosphere. The research has been published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
ANALYSIS: Brown Dwarf Weather Patterns Mapped
"It's incredibly interesting," said Jonathan Fortney of the University of California, Santa Cruz, who was involved with the development of the brown dwarf models. "It's tentative," but "it's the first evidence for water clouds" outside our solar system," he told Science News.
Water clouds exist on Earth and Mars, and water is known to exist in the lower layers of the gas and ice giants. But until now, no other object beyond the solar system has exhibited clouds of water.
Water vapor has been detected in extrasolar planets' atmospheres, however, but this is the first time water clouds have been spotted. Like Earth, it appears to be partly cloudy, with broken patches of water clouds, said Faherty.