Apr 19, 2024, 10:30 AM IST

A cool brown dwarf may have aurorae, according to James Webb Space Telescope data.

Emily Horn

Recent observations by JWST's observations James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) have led to an exciting discovery of the brown dwarf referred to as CWISEP J193518.59-154620.3 or W1935. 

It is located 47 light years away. this icy star, having a surface temperature of 400°F, has been exhibiting methane emission that was previously unknown in brown dwarfs, and usually related to the absorption of light. 

The study was published within the journal Nature The study was led by Jackie Faherty, a senior researcher in the American Museum of Natural History. 

Faherty and her team who were given JWST observer time in 2013, studied 12 brown dwarfs and found that W1935 showed unique characteristics that it was emitting methane. 

The analysis resulted in an fascinating conclusion: W1935 is believed to have a temperature inversion within its atmosphere, in which temperatures increase as altitude increases. 

This is not typical for brown dwarfs, especially one with no nearby source of heat that could explain this inversion. 

The team draws parallels to gas giants within our solar system, such as Jupiter and Saturn that also show methane emissions as well as temperature inversions likely caused by aurorae researchers speculated that similar processes could be affecting W1935. 

Aurorae on Earth as well as other planets generally originate through interactions with solar winds or magnetic fields. But W1935's isolation eliminates the solar wind's role which suggests a alternative mechanism behind its auroral activity. 

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