Astronomers spot a star with a Jupiter-like storm

This brown dwarf's massive storm is reminiscent of Jupiter's Red Spot.

Unfathomably large storms aren't reserved solely for gas giants like Jupiter... they can exist on stars, too. Astronomers using the Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes have discovered a giant storm on W1906+40, a brown dwarf cool enough ("just" 3,500F) to have clouds full of minerals. It's so large that you could fit thee Earths within its volume, and it's been raging for years. In fact, it wasn't until scientists used Spitzer's infrared detection that they even realized that it wasn't just a massive sunspot.

Given that this is the first storm seen on this scale, there are still many questions left up in the air. How did it form? Is this a one-off event, or are these kinds of storms commonplace? Like or not, you won't get more answers until researchers scan more dwarfs and (hopefully) understand the origins of this bad starry weather.

[Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech]