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One nice result from NASA's WISE infrared survey of the sky is the discovery of particularly cool (as in 'not very warm') stars, now called 'Y dwarfs'. This was reported, for example, in

NASA's WISE mission discovers coolest class of stars (Science Daily, August 24, 2011).

whic includes a pretty nice artist's representation of what they might look like:

enter image description here

Could we achieve a high enough resolution to actually be able to study the dynamics of brown dwarf atmospheres in the near-future?

The one thing with brown dwarfs (especially isolated ones like this) is that you can't really subtract the transit spectrum from the parent spectrum (as you can with transiting exoplanets)

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If you mean "optical telescopes", the probably no. but I think infrared and larger wavelength telescopes should be able to "see" brown dwarfs. –  Jus12 Aug 31 '11 at 17:42

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

not currently. The only images we have are of extended red and blue giants, and then only just via interferometers and the largest telescopes.

In maybe 10 years space born infra red interferometers might be imaging these objects but probably more like 20 to 30 years...

The best resoution we have managed so far in the optical is around 0.5 milli arcseconds, an impriovement in this by a factor of 10 to 100 would be necessary to image/measure brown dwarfs.

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The truth is that I believe still do not have eyesight with our telescopes to observe faithfully brown dwarf. This is not only due to the low quality (although very good) recent observations with telescopes. However, remember that these objects are small (about Jupiter masses), cold (emitting little light) and are very elusive.

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This is now (sort of) possible. It is not a 'direct' optical imaging, because the stellar disk is nowhere near resolvable, but a recent paper,

A global cloud map of the nearest known brown dwarf. I. J. M. Crossfield et al. Nature 505, 654–656 (30 January 2014).

claims the observation of surface features on the very-nearby brown dwarf Luhmann 16B. This is done by careful measurement of the light curve and the stellar Doppler shift as the star rotates about its axis. Bright features can be tracked as specific spikes which are blue- and then red-shifted, though of course more careful data analysis is needed to produce a good map. They produced some rather impressive maps, though:

enter image description here

There's a fair bit of information in the Max Planck Institute of Astronomy press release (from which I took the image above) and in this Sky and Telescope article.

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