University of Hertfordshire astronomers discover ‘planet’ with red skies

PUBLISHED: 16:44 11 February 2014 | UPDATED: 16:44 11 February 2014

A Brown dwarf which has red skies has been discovered by astronomers from the University of Hertfordshire

A Brown dwarf which has red skies has been discovered by astronomers from the University of Hertfordshire

Archant

Stargazers from the University of Hertfordshire have discovered a ‘planet’ which has red skies.

Astronomers spied a brown dwarf, which straddles the line between a star and a planet, catchilly named ULAS J222711-004547 with an unusually strong red colour.

After observations using a VLT (very large telescope) in Chile data analysis showed the colour came from a very thick layer of clouds in its atmosphere.

Federico Marocco, who led the research team from the University of Hertfordshire, said: “These are not the type of clouds that we are used to seeing on Earth.

“The thick clouds on this particular brown dwarf are mostly made of mineral dust.”

The size of the dust grains influences the colour of the sky.

On Earth, if our morning skies are red, it is because clear skies to the east permit the sun to light the undersides of moisture-bearing clouds coming in from the west.

However, in order to see red clouds in the evening, sunlight must have a clear path from the west in order to illuminate moisture-bearing clouds moving off to the east.

The recently discovered brown dwarf ULAS J222711-004547 has a very different atmosphere where the sky is always red.

Dr Avril Day-Jones, from the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Astrophysics Research, who contributed to the discovery and analysis, said: “Being one of the reddest brown dwarfs ever observed, ULAS J222711-004547 makes an ideal target for multiple observations to understand how the weather is in such an extreme atmosphere.”


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