The brown dwarf WISE 0855 has piqued the interest of astronomers since it was first detected in 2014. It is 7.2 light-years away from Earth and is known to be the coldest object outside the Solar System. When viewed using ground-based telescopes, it is just barely visible at infrared wavelengths.
Using the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii, astronomers at UC Santa Cruz succeeded in getting an infrared spectrum of the brown dwarf which gives the first set of details regarding its composition and chemistry. Included among the details is the strong evidence that clouds of water or water ice exist on the object. These are the first water ice clouds to be detected outside of the Solar System.
“The spectrum allows us to investigate dynamical and chemical properties that have long been studied in Jupiter’s atmosphere, but this time on an extrasolar world,” said Andrew Skemer, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.