This beautiful purple jewel is an artist rendition of W0855 — a Jupiter-sized brown dwarf 7.3 light-years from Earth. If the scientists who just published a new paper on its composition are right, it’s the first object outside the solar system in which we have observed water clouds — an amazing discovery.
Keep in mind that we have only detected water clouds on Earth and Mars. Jacqueline Faherty — the scientist who has lead the discovery at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC — says she has “been obsessed with this object since its discovery” by Pennsylvania State University’s astronomer Kevin Lehman:,
I’ve been obsessed with this object since its discovery. I went to battle at the telescope to try and get this detection. I wanted to put war paint under my eyes and wear a bandanna, because I knew this was not going to be an easy thing to do. At the telescope, I’ve never been so nervous. I’ve never wanted clear conditions so badly […] I’m absolutely elated.
After three nights manning the 6.5m Magellan Baade telescope in Chile, the team managed to get 151 near-infrared images that finally resulted in the positive detection of water clouds. According to University of California, Santa Cruz, Jonathan Fortney, “it’s tentative [but] “it’s the first evidence for water clouds” outside Earth and Mars.