Brown Dwarfs and Their Stripes

Artist's conception of a brown dwarf.

Brown dwarfs are neither stars nor gas giants but something in between. Our two nearest brown dwarf neighbors are roughly equivalent to Jupiter in size but about 30 times more massive. Since these objects are so dim, little is known about their structure. Do they resemble stars in their atmospheric patterns or gas giants like Jupiter?

To find out, a team of researchers studied two nearby brown dwarfs with the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. They were able to map the objects’ varying lightcurves and model an upper atmosphere consistent with those observations. They found that both dwarfs have high-speed winds running parallel to their equators, meaning that they likely have stripes like Jupiter. The similarities even extended to the brown dwarfs’ poles, where — like on Jupiter — the atmosphere became dominated by local vortices. (Image credit: NASA/JPL; video credit: Steward Observatory; research credit: D. Apai et al.; via Gizmodo)

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