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NASA Maps Temperature And Vapour On ‘Extreme Exoplanet’

Hubble readings from ‘Hot Jupiter’

By: Sasha Sutton  |@SashaEricaS
 on 10th October 2014 @ 12.50pm
temperature map of  extreme exoplanet  wasp 43b © NASA
Temperature map of 'extreme exoplanet' Wasp-43b

NASA has been conducting groundbreaking research into exoplanets outside of our solar system as the search for extraterrestrial life continues. Recent research of an ‘extreme exoplanet’ has shown that the ‘hot Jupiter’ is no place to call home, as the temperature and water vapour conditions are rather turbulent.

A press release reveals that the exoplanet Wasp-43b, located 260 light-years away from Earth and discovered by NASA in 2011, is home to howling winds at the speed of sound and during the day has temperatures hot enough to melt steel. Researchers found that temperatures reached a staggering 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and during the pitch-black night still had searing temperatures that plunged below 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Wasp 43-b is so close to its star that it completes an orbit in only 19 hours.

Astronomers mapped the temperatures at different atmospheric layers, and also traced the distribution of water vapour. Wasp-43b, a Jupiter-like planet however twice as dense as the one in our solar system, has such a high surface temperature because it orbits very close to its star, and unlike our Jupiter, the water is vaporised rather than condensed into ice clouds said team member Laura Kreidberg, from University of Chicago. The team of researchers found that Wasp-43b has around the same amount of water you’d expect to see on our sun.

The exoplanet is too far away from Earth to be photographed; however scientists made orbital observations by detecting regular dips in light as the planet passed the star. Team member Kevin Stevenson, of Chicago University, explained, “Our observations are the first of their kind in terms of providing a two-dimensional map on the longitude and altitude of the planet’s thermal structure that can be used to constrain atmospheric circulation and dynamic models for hot exoplanets”.

 hot jupiters  orbit erratically © Twitter
'Hot Jupiters' orbit erratically

Space.com reports that there has been a lot of mystery surrounding the exoplanets known as 'hot jupiters' as they are rather erratic in their orbit, causing chaos for stars as the giant balls of gas migrate inwards towards the celestial body. Previous research had suggested that exoplanets should orbit in line with the star's equator, but over the past five years, scientists have discovered that more than half of all hot jupiters are mysteriously tilted in relation to their stars' equators. This results in scorching conditions on the planet, and also causes the stars to 'dance chaotically'.

NASA’s observations of this key example of a ‘hot jupiter’ will help scientists further understand the fundamentals of planets just like it.

“These measurements have opened the door for new kinds of ways to compare the properties of different types of planets”, said team leader Jacob Bean.

Contact author Sasha Sutton:

Google Plus: Sasha Sutton




tags: NASA | Exoplanet

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