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Postcard from Spitzer: weather on 2MASSJ22282889-431026 is hot and cloudy » vega asteroid belts

This artist's illustration shows the atmosphere of a brown dwarf called 2MASSJ22282889-431026, which was observed simultaneously by NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes. The results were unexpected, revealing offset layers of material as indicated in the diagram. For example, the large, bright patch in the outer layer has shifted to the right in the inner layer. The observations indicate this brown dwarf -- a ball of gas that "failed" to become a star -- is marked by wind-driven, planet-size clouds.

The observations were made using different wavelength of light: Hubble sees infrared light from deeper in the object, while Spitzer sees longer-wavelength infrared light from the outermost surface. Both telescopes watched the brown dwarf as it rotated every 1.4 hours, changing in brightness as brighter or darker patches turned into the visible hemisphere. At each observed wavelength, the timing of the changes in brightness was offset, or out of phase, indicating the shifting layers of material.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Spitzer seen against the infrared sky. The band of light is the glowing dust emission from the Milky Way galaxy seen at 100 microns (as seen by the IRAS/COBE missions). Image credit NASA/JPL