An unexpected aurora-like signal has been discovered from a brown dwarf star about 47 light-years from Earth. The James Webb Space Telescope has discovered signs of an aurora that may emanate from a brown dwarf star named W1935. A brown dwarf is a cosmic object with a mass larger than Jupiter but less than a star. They are often called failed stars.
Infrared measurements from the James Webb Telescope detected emissions of methane in the atmosphere of W1935, indicating atmospheric heating caused by auroral processes. What’s intriguing is that W1935 is not a hot object, but a cold formation without a parent star.
Methane emissions are a common atmospheric feature observed on some planets in our solar system, such as Jupiter and Saturn. This phenomenon is closely related to the heating of the upper atmosphere – a process that is inextricably linked with the emergence of aurora.
Jupiter and Saturn experience similar auroral processes associated with interaction with the solar wind. The solar wind, made up charged of particles emitted by the Sun, interacts with the magnetic fields surrounding these giant planets, resulting in the formation of auroras. Although the solar wind plays an important role, the auroral contribution of Jupiter and Saturn is not limited to this interaction. Both planets also form aurors thanks to their active moons. However, W1935 is an unusual case because it does not have a star or even a moon.
To better understand the mysteries of methane light, researchers conducted simulations using computer models. Computer models of W1935 showed the occurrence of a phenomenon known as a temperature inversion. This occurs when the temperature increases with altitude. Research shows that temperature inversions are also observed on Jupiter and Saturn. The researchers noted that the root cause of the stratospheric warming in 1935 AD has not yet been determined. Detecting the presence of an active satellite could also help identify the dwarf object’s source of methane emissions. However, the study is important because W1935 is the first aurora candidate to show evidence of methane emission outside the solar system. The findings will be presented at the 243rd Annual Meeting of the American Astronomical Society in New Orleans.