This artist's illustration shows the atmosphere of a brown dwarf called 2MASSJ22282889-431026, which was observed simultaneously by NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes. The results were unexpected, revealing offset layers of material as indicated in the diagram. For example, the large, bright patch in the outer layer has shifted to the right in the inner layer. The observations indicate this brown dwarf -- a ball of gas that "failed" to become a star -- is marked by wind-driven, planet-size clouds.
The observations were made using different wavelength of light: Hubble sees infrared light from deeper in the object, while Spitzer sees longer-wavelength infrared light from the outermost surface. Both telescopes watched the brown dwarf as it rotated every 1.4 hours, changing in brightness as brighter or darker patches turned into the visible hemisphere. At each observed wavelength, the timing of the changes in brightness was offset, or out of phase, indicating the shifting layers of material.
JPL manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech.