A cool brown dwarf may have aurorae, according to James Webb Space Telescope data.

Methane release on a brown dwarf was unexpected for such a cold and lonely world, according to JWST findings.    

The discoveries in Nature suggest that this brown dwarf may produce aurorae like those on Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn.   

Our solar neighborhood has thousands of brown dwarfs, which are larger than planets but lighter than stars.    

Jackie Faherty, a senior research scientist and senior education manager at the American Museum of Natural History, led a JWST-funded team to study 12 brown dwarfs last year.   

Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, citizen science volunteer Dan Caselden, and NASA CatWISE identified CWISEP J193518.59–154620.3 (W1935), a cold brown dwarf 47 light years away.    

W1935 is a cold brown dwarf with a 400°F surface. The mass of W1935 is unknown, but it's likely six to 35 times Jupiter's.   

W1935 looked similar to other brown dwarfs spotted with JWST, but Faherty's team noted that it was spewing methane, a first for a brown dwarf.   

"Methane gas is expected in giant planets and brown dwarfs, but we usually see it absorbing light, not glowing," said research main author Faherty. "We were confused about what we were seeing at first but ultimately that transformed into pure excitement at the discovery."   

Another surprise came from computer modeling: the brown dwarf may have a temperature inversion, where the atmosphere warms with height. Planets orbiting stars can have temperature inversions, but W1935 is alone and has no heat source.   

We were pleasantly shocked when the model clearly predicted a temperature inversion," said University of Hertfordshire co-author Ben Burningham. "But we also had to figure out where that extra upper atmosphere heat was coming from."   

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