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From left: Dr. Daniel Apai; screenshot of movie of atmospheric changes of the brown dwarf; Dr. Theodora Karalidi

Belts, Spots, and Giant Waves in Brown Dwarfs

 A new paper published in Science by the Extrasolar Storms Team at Steward Observatory, led by Prof Daniel Apai, reports on the discovery of belts, spots, and planetary-scale waves in brown dwarfs. In the Extrasolar Storms program -- among the largest programs executed on the Spitzer Space Telescope -- Apai and his collaborators monitored brown dwarfs over more than a year. By modeling the brightness variations in the rotating brown dwarfs they were able to probe the cloud distribution in their atmospheres; by comparing 32 rotations for the brown dwarfs they found that the changes in the cloud cover are driven by planetary-scale waves. The observations provide the first detailed insight into the atmospheric circulation of brown dwarfs, analogs of gas giant exoplanets, and demonstrate that the circulation and atmospheric evolution in these extrasolar objects are in many ways similar to the giant planets in our solar system, with a few marked differences. Other Stewardites who are authors of this work are: Postdoc Theodora Karalidi, former Steward Postdoc Hao Yang, and former Stewardite Davin Flateau. The UA press release can be found HERE. You can see the reconstructed movie and a podcast HERE

You can find even more about the study at the following links:

Spitzer Science Center's press release

Science Magazine podcast

Science paper