Brown dwarf Luhman 16A is closest to Earth. Astronomers recently discovered with the Very Large Telescope that the star has layers of clouds similar to those that envelop Jupiter. Although the striped brown dwarf is not a discovery for scientists, the Caltech technique known as polarimetry is still relatively new. Specifically, the latest technological developments in this method.
It works by analogy with sunglasses: by filtering the light of certain polarizations, scientists can understand the environment through which this light has passed.
“Polarimetry is a very sophisticated art, but new methods and data analysis make it more accurate and sensitive than ever before, enabling innovative research into everything from far-reaching supermassive black holes, newborn and dying stars, brown dwarfs and exoplanets to objects in our own solar system,” said the California astronomer Dmitry Mavet.
In a new study, the brown dwarf is named Luhman 16A. It is part of a pair that, together with Luhman 16B, represents the nearest double system of brown dwarfs to Earth, located at a distance of 6.5 light-years. Measuring the amount of polarized light allows scientists to assume that the Luhman 16A bands are two, and their number does not change.
Models of the researchers show that some areas of the clouds are stormy, so the weather on the brown dwarf can be turbulent, as in Jupiter.
“We think that these storms can rain on things like silicates or ammonia. The weather is actually pretty bad,” says co-author Julien Girard of the Space Telescope Science Institute.
The team of scientists plans to extend this research method to measurements around the exoplanet in the future.