Friday, October 21, 2016

Photometric Monitoring of the Coldest Known Brown Dwarf with the Spitzer Space Telescope


Esplin et al


Because WISE J085510.83−071442.5 (hereafter WISE 0855-0714) is the coldest known brown dwarf (∼250 K) and one of the Sun's closest neighbors (2.2 pc), it offers a unique opportunity for studying a planet-like atmosphere in an unexplored regime of temperature. To detect and characterize inhomogeneities in its atmosphere (e.g., patchy clouds, hot spots), we have performed time-series photometric monitoring of WISE 0855-0714 at 3.6 and 4.5 micron with the Spitzer Space Telescope during two 23~hr periods that were separated by several months. For both bands, we have detected variability with peak-to-peak amplitudes of 4-5% and 3-4% in the first and second epochs, respectively. The light curves are semi-periodic in the first epoch for both bands, but are more irregular in the second epoch. Models of patchy clouds have predicted a large increase in mid-IR variability amplitudes (for a given cloud covering fraction) with the appearance of water ice clouds at Teff

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