Breathtaking research reveals incredible fast winds on exoplanet.
Researchers from the University of Warwick have recorded a wind speed of about 5,400 mph outside our solar system, and this translates to a wind speed of over 2 kilometers per second – 20 times higher than the fastest wind speed ever recorded on Earth – where it is actually 7x the speed of sound.
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In a paper titled “Spatially resolved eastward winds and rotation of HD 189733b” published in The Astronomical Journal Letters, the disclosed that this is the first time ever that a weather system outside of the Earth’s solar system would be mapped and measured for speed.
"This is the first ever weather map from outside of our solar system,” said Tom Louden of the University of Warwick's Astrophysics group. “Whilst we have previously known of wind on exoplanets, we have never before been able to directly measure and map a weather system."
The team of researchers was able to measure velocities on the dayside and night-side of exoplanet HD 189733n, and discovered that strong winds with a speed of over 5,400 mph is moving from the dayside of the exoplanet to its night side.
"HD 189733b's velocity was measured using high resolution spectroscopy of the Sodium absorption featured in its atmosphere,” Louden clarified. “As parts of HD 189733b's atmosphere move towards or away from the Earth the Doppler effect changes the wavelength of this feature, which allows the velocity to be measured".
Mr. Louden is not done yet. He explained that since the surface of the star is brighter at the center than at its edge, the planet moves across the star based on the amount of light blocked due to various changes in the atmosphere. The team was able to obtain a velocity map of the star by using the analysis to measure various velocities on opposite sides of the planet.
The planet is shown at three positions as it crosses its parent star. The changing background illumination allows us to separate absorption from different parts of the planetary atmosphere. By measuring the Doppler shift of the absorption we are able to measure wind velocities. The blue-shaded region of the atmosphere is moving toward the Earth at 12,000 mph, while the red-shaded region is moving away from the earth at 5,000 mph. After correcting for the expected spin of the planet we measure a wind velocity of 5400 mph on the blue side, indicating a strong eastward wind flow from the heated day side to the night side of the planet.
Co-researcher Dr. Peter Wheatley of the University of Warwick's Astrophysics Group added that the techniques deployed for the studying speeds of wind on the star could also be used to study other planets that are very Earth-like.
"We are tremendously excited to have found a way to map weather systems on distant planets,” Wheatley said. “As we develop the technique further we will be able to study wind flows in increasing detail and make weather maps of smaller planets. Ultimately this technique will allow us to image the weather systems on Earth-like planets. "
The HD 189733b is 10 times bigger than Jupiter and 180 times closer to it, and it has a temperature of 1,800 degrees Celsius. Astronomers study this star a lot because of its closeness to our solar system, and it is categorized as one of the class of “Hot Jupiters.”
The study titled "Spatially resolved eastward winds and rotation of HD189733b" has been published by The Astronomical Journal Letters on arXiv. The data was collected by HARPS, the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher, in La Silla, Chile.