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NEWS
Carnegie Institution of Washington
09 Sep 2014

Washington, D.C.—A team of scientists led by Carnegie’s Jacqueline Faherty has discovered the first evidence of water ice clouds on an object outside of our own Solar System. Water ice clouds exist on our own gas giant planets–Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune–but have not been seen outside of the planets orbiting our Sun until now. […]

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Washington, D.C.—A team of scientists led by Carnegie’s Jacqueline Faherty has discovered the first evidence of water ice clouds on an object outside of our own Solar System. Water ice clouds exist on our own gas giant planets–Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune–but have not been seen outside of the planets orbiting our Sun until now. Their findings are published by The Astrophysical Journal Letters. At the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, Faherty, along with a team including Carnegie’s Andrew Monson, used the FourStar near infrared camera to detect the coldest brown dwarf ever characterized. Their findings are the result of 151 images taken over three nights and combined. The object, named WISE J085510.83-071442.5, or W0855, was first seen by NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Explorer mission and published earlier this year. But it was not known if it could be detected by Earth-based facilities.

“This was a battle at the telescope to get the detection,” said Faherty.

Chris Tinney, an Astronomer at the Australian Centre for Astrobiology, UNSW Australia and co-author on the result stated: “This is a great result. This object is so faint and it’s exciting to be the first people to detect it with a telescope on the ground.”

Brown dwarfs aren’t quite very small stars, but they aren’t quite giant planets either. They are too small to sustain the hydrogen fusion process that fuels stars. Their temperatures can range from nearly as hot as a star to as cool as a planet, and their masses also range between star-like and giant planet-like. They are of particular interest to scientists because they offer clues to star-formation processes.  They also overlap with the temperatures of planets, but are much easier to study since they are commonly found in isolation.W0855 is the fourth-closest system to our own Sun, practically a next-door neighbor in astronomical distances. A comparison of the team’s near-infrared images of W0855 with models for predicting the atmospheric content of brown dwarfs showed evidence of frozen clouds of sulfide and water. “Ice clouds are predicted to be very important in the atmospheres of planets beyond our Solar System, but they’ve never been observed outside of it before now,” Faherty said. The paper’s other co-author is Andrew Skemer of the University of Arizona.

NEWS
American Museum of Natural History
30 Jul 2013

The U.S. National Park Service has renewed its agreement with the American Museum of Natural History to permanently freeze biological samples collected from threatened and endangered species at the Museum’s Ambrose Monell Collection for Molecular and Microbial Research, one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of its kind. The Monell collection now houses about […]

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The U.S. National Park Service has renewed its agreement with the American Museum of Natural History to permanently freeze biological samples collected from threatened and endangered species at the Museum’s Ambrose Monell Collection for Molecular and Microbial Research, one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of its kind.

The Monell collection now houses about 93,000 tissue samples, including more than 1,000 tissue samples submitted by the National Park Service (NPS) just in the lastyear. Some of the more noteworthy NPS additions are samples from the Channel Island fox—a once near-extinct species found only on six islands off the coast of southern

California—the bald eagle, and the Karner blue butterfly, which is drastically losing habitat in parts of the Midwest and Northeast. These frozen samples, along with the balance of the Monell collection, are available to researchers around the world for genetic and genomic research.

Under the new five-year agreement, which was signed in July 2014, NPS researchers will continue to collect tissue samples under controlled conditions using kits provided by the Museum. The documented specimens, packed in special equipment, are shipped to the Museum, where they are housed in cryogenic storage—liquid nitrogen-cooled vats at temperatures below -150 degrees Celsius. The partnership between the Museum and NPS began in 2009 and so far has resulted in the preservation of more than 2,000 tissue samples from three national parks.

With the capacity to store 1 million frozen tissue samples, the Monell collection, also known as the Ambrose Monell Cryo Collection (AMCC), is part of the Museum’s larger effort to preserve a comprehensive record of Earth’s biodiversity. Launched in 2001, this specialized collection helped develop important protocols for archiving biological specimens. For example, the facility includes an important measure of safety: in the event of an electrical failure, samples would remain super-chilled for five weeks. Major research institutions regularly reach out to the AMCC to seek advice on best practices in frozen tissue storage and data documentation. In the past year alone, staff from Denmark’s soon-to-open national tissue archive spent a week working in the Monell Collection to observe daily operations.