Solar System Chatter

Otherworldly Weather

University of Warwick
University of Warwick
For the first time, scientists have observed weather patterns on a gas giant exoplanet—and they’re as exotic as you might hope. A team at the University of Warwick Astrophysics Group in the United Kingdom has been using NASA’s Kepler telescope to observe HAT-P-7b, the name for an exoplanet discovered in 2008 that’s 1,000 light years away and 16 times the size of Earth. They were able to determine that the planet is swarmed with powerful winds by observing how a bright spot of reflected light moved across the surface, like watching the movements of Jupiter’s great storm. The winds on the planet likely form “catastrophic storms,” but even more fascinating is that the clouds seem to be made up of a mineral called corundum, the same which forms rubies and sapphires. Furthermore, the tidally-locked planet is a sweltering 4600 degrees Fahrenheit on the day side, all making for a stunning but ultimately uninhabitable world.

Heather Goss is the Departments Editor at Air & Space.

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