Weather Systems Observed On A Giant Planet Outside Our Solar System

Posted: Dec 12 2016, 10:40pm CST | by , Updated: Dec 12 2016, 10:44pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

Weather Systems Observed on a Giant Planet Outside Our Solar System
Credit: University of Warwick
 

The clouds of distant planet are likely made of a mineral that forms rubies and sapphires

Astronomers have observed cloud cover and powerful changing winds on a gas giant more than1, 000 light years away from the Earth, making it the first planet outside our solar system known to have weather pattern.

The planet is named HAT-P-7b and is 16 times larger than Earth. Research suggests that strong winds are swirling across the planet and causing catastrophe storms in its atmosphere. What is even more surprising is the fact that these clouds are likely made of corundum – a mineral that is the building block of ruby and sapphires.

Researchers have analyzed the planet’s weather systems using NASA’s Kepler satellite data from May 2009 to May 2013. They found that the distant giant planet that orbits very close to its host star reflects and emits light as it moves around. By identifying changes in the light, researchers have been able to study the atmosphere and surface of the planet.

“These results show that strong wind circle the planet, transporting clouds from night side to dayside. The winds change speed dramatically, leading to huge cloud formations building yup than dying away. This is the first detection of weather on a gas giant planet outside the solar system.”Lead researcher Dr David Armstrong from University of Warwick said in a statement.

Despite having weather system, the planet could never be inhabitable. Its weather is too violent and intense to support life. Furthermore, HAT-P-7b is a tidily locked planet, which means that its one side always faces its host star and receives extreme heat from it, making it hotter than potentially habitable planets. The day side temperature of the planet is estimated to be 2860 Kelvin. To put it in perspective, the average temperature of Earth is 287 Kelvin, which is thousands of times lower than HAT-P-7b.

“Using the NASA Kepler satellite we were able to study light reflected from HAT-P-7b's atmosphere, finding that the atmosphere was changing over time. HAT-P-7b is a tidally locked planet, with the same side always facing its star. We expect clouds to form on the cold night side of the planet, but they would evaporate quickly on the hot dayside.” Dr Armstrong said.

HAT-P-7b was originally discovered in 2008. It is both more larger and massive than Jupiter. In 2010, ellipsoidal light variations were detected on the planet, which has made it an object interesting to scientists ever since. 

The finding of the study were published in Nature Astronomy.

 

 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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