We need a brief break from this solar system

What interesting things are happening in other parts of the galaxy?

What do you call this? A trinary star system? So there’s a big star, a star that orbits the big star and a star orbiting the second star? And the big planet has an irregular orbit that looks like it’s going to eventually send it crashing into the main star.

That’s kind of exotic, but it would be more exciting to find a planet with water, so we can get our reservations in.

Brown dwarfs – those not-quite-a-planet and not-quite-a-star objects – are intriguing oddities that are too low in mass to burn hydrogen, but are more massive than planets. They only emit a faint amount of light, so they are hard to detect, making scientists unsure of how many of them might be out there in our galaxy.

But astronomers have been keeping an eye one particular brown dwarf known called WISE 0855. Just 7.2 light-years from Earth, it is the coldest known object outside of our Solar System and is just barely visible at infrared wavelengths. But with some crafty spectroscopic observing techniques, astronomers have now determined this object has some exciting characteristics: its atmosphere is full of clouds of water vapor. This is the first time water clouds have been detected outside of our Solar System.

So it’s not a planet, and it’s not a star, but it has water? Cancel my reservation, because I don’t know what we’re dealing with here..


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