Just when we thought the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) had shown us the most spectacular image ever, it has one-upped itself again! The latest images to come from the incredible teams at NASA show a new alien world that has clouds made of sand-like granules. Here’s what you need to know.
With the powerful JWST, NASA has been able to take a more detailed look at parts of the universe we’ve not been able to explore deeply before. The latest snap has allowed researchers to see a ton of detail of a brown dwarf with an atmosphere of really hot sand, Space.com notes. Yeah, it’s cool!
Using the telescope’s NIRSpec and MIRI instruments, NASA got a detailed look at a brown dwarf — an object that’s smaller than planet but larger than a star with characteristics of both — called VHS 1256b. The brown dwarf is 72 light-years away, and it’s 20 times the size of Jupiter, according to Space.com.
The finding of the dwarf solidifies some early theories about planet-like worlds in the universe. This brown dwarf was first found in 2016, but researchers have been wracking their brains since then over its interesting reddish glow. It was believed that the color was caused by its unique atmosphere, and in 2017 astronomers were able to confirm the colors of the dwarf were due to particles in the atmosphere
And now, with the JWST, astronomers were able to get a better look, including at details of what those particles are in its atmosphere. The dwarf has thick clouds of sand-like silicate grains, and the telescope also confirmed the atmosphere contains water, methane, sodium, potassium, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. Basically, it’s not only a really cool planet-like dwarf, but this is the first time science has directly observed an atmosphere such as this.
The new findings were detailed in a report as part of the agency’s Webb Early Science Release Program and sent to the American Astronomical Society journal (it hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet), led by astronomer Brittany Miles of UC Santa Cruz and UC Irvine along with a group of global contributors.