Tiny, Cool Star Has a Massive, Cloudy Storm that Rivals Jupiter's

First Posted: Dec 11, 2015 08:21 AM EST

Astronomers have discovered a tiny star with a giant, cloudy storm that rivals that of Jupiter. Similar to the Great Red Spot, a persistent raging storm large than Earth, the new storm may tell researchers a bit more about weather on other worlds.

"The star is the size of Jupiter, and its storm is the size of Jupiter's Great Red Spot," said John Gizis, one of the researchers, in a news release. "We know this newfound storm has lasted at least two years, and probably longer."

While planets are known to have cloudy storms, this is the best evidence yet that stars also have these storms. The star, named W1906+40, belongs to a group of stars called L-dwarfs. Some L-dwarfs are considered stars because they fuse atoms and generate light. Others, called brown dwarfs, are known as "failed stars" for their lack of atomic fusion.

The L-dwarf in this study is thought to be a star based on estimates of its age. Its temperature is about 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit, which is cool enough for clouds to possibly form in its atmosphere.

While the storm looks different when viewed at various wavelengths, if we could somehow travel there in a starship it would look like a dark mark near the polar top of the star.

Currently, the researchers hope to examine other brown dwarfs to look for other storms on stars.

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