Astronomers find ‘first signs’ of water ice clouds beyond solar system

Washington: The first evidence of water ice clouds beyond the solar system has recently been discovered by astronomers.

Such ice clouds have not been seen outside of the planets orbiting our Sun until now and it’s the first time such a discovery has been made. In our solar system water ice clouds exist on the gas giant planets; Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

Jacqueline Fahertym, along with a team including Carnegie’s Andrew Monson at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile used the FourStar near infrared camera to detect the coldest brown dwarf ever characterized. Their findings are the result of 151 images taken over three nights and combined.

The object, named WISE J085510.83-071442.5, or W0855, was first seen by NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Explorer mission and published earlier in 2014 but it was not known if it could be detected by Earth-based facilities.

W0855 was the fourth-closest system to Sun, practically a next-door neighbor in astronomical distances. A comparison of the team’s near-infrared images of W0855 with models for predicting the atmospheric content of brown dwarfs showed evidence of frozen clouds of sulfide and water.

Faherty said that ice clouds are predicted to be very important in the atmospheres of planets beyond our Solar System.