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Brown Dwarf Storm Weather Will Melt You With Molten Iron And Red Hot Sand

08/01/2014 11:30 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 21:01 GMT

Think the weather is tough going here? Be thankful you don't live on a brown dwarf.

Using Nasa's Spitzer Space Telescope (SST), astronomers believe they've found evidence for giant planet-sized storms raining hot sand and molten iron.

Stanimir Metchev of the University of Western Ontario, Canada, said: "As the brown dwarfs spin on their axis, the alternation of what we think are cloud-free and cloudy regions produces a periodic brightness variation that we can observe.

brown dwarf

Artist's impression of face-melting weather

"These are signs of patchiness in the cloud cover."

Brown dwarfs form as stars do, but lack the mass to fuse atoms continually and blossom into full-fledged stars.

They are, in some ways, the massive kin to Jupiter.

Scientists think that the cloudy regions on brown dwarfs take the form of torrential storms, accompanied by winds and, possibly, lightning more violent than that at Jupiter or any other planet in our solar system.

However, the brown dwarfs studied so far are too hot for water rain; instead, astronomers believe the rain in these storms, like the clouds themselves, is made of hot sand, molten iron or salts.

Researchers hope better the work will lead to a better understanding of not just brown dwarfs but their "little brothers": the gas-giant planets like Jupiter.