Brown dwarf: Over a period of several hours, the star exhibited the largest brightness variations ever seen on a cool brown dwarf.
Art by Jon Lomberg
A small, dim star appears to be wracked by a mega storm more violent than any weather yet seen on another world, astronomers announced.
The star, called a brown dwarf, is more massive than a giant planet but much lighter than most stars. Over a period of several hours, the star exhibited the largest brightness variations ever seen on a cool brown dwarf.
"We found that our target's brightness changed by a whopping 30 percent in just under eight hours," graduate student Jacqueline Radigan of the University of Toronto said in a statement. "The best explanation is that brighter and darker patches of its atmosphere are coming into our view as the brown dwarf spins on its axis." [Illustration of the storm-wracked brown dwarf]
Scientists think climate patterns on brown dwarfs are similar to those on giant planets, so studying this super squall could help illuminate weather on alien planets. Clouds on giant planets and brown dwarfs are thought to form when tiny dust grains, made of silicates and metals, condense.