An Eerie, Jupiter-Like Storm Is Raging On This Distant Star

This giant whirlwind has lasted for two years already.

A team of astronomers has recently discovered that a small star sitting some 53 light-years away just may be Jupiter's doppelganger. Well, kind of.

The star not only appears to be around the same size as the gas giant planet in our solar system, but it also has a strange and stormy dark spot on its surface (pictured above) that's mysteriously similar to Jupiter's Great Red Spot. While planets have been known to have cloudy storms that appear as spots, this new discovery is the best evidence yet that stars can have the same thing, according to a statement released by NASA last week.

Now, the astronomers plan to seek out other stormy stars in order to determine whether the cloudy spots are common or not.

"We know this newfound storm has lasted at least two years, and probably longer," Dr. John Gizis, physics and astronomy professor at the University of Delaware and lead author of a paper describing the star, said in the statement. "We don't know if this kind of star storm is unique or common, and... why it persists for so long."

The star, named W1906+40, was first discovered in 2011, and for the past two years, Gizis and his colleagues have been observing its storm using data from NASA's Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes.

The astronomers found that W1906+40, which belongs to a class of celestial objects called L-dwarfs, has a temperature of around 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit and rotates on its axis about every nine hours. Earlier in their observations, the astronomers noticed that the star can be quite moody and release stunningly powerful flares.

Their latest paper describing the star and its stormy atmosphere was published in The Astrophysical Journal on Nov. 4.

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