Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Interstellar Weather Report: Day and Night Temps Measured on an Extrasolar Planet

For the first time, astronomers have measured the day and night temperatures of a planet outside our solar system. The team,* which includes Sara Seager of Carnegie’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, revealed that a giant Jupiter-like gas planet orbiting very close to its star is blisteringly hot on one side, and frigid on the other.

The finding, made using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, represents the first time that any kind of variation has been seen across the surface of a planet outside our solar system. Previous studies of such planets—known to astronomers as “extrasolar” planets—have described whole-globe traits such as size and mass.

The results appear online today in Science Express, and will also be presented at the 38th meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in Pasadena, California.

“This observation completely changes our thinking about hot gas giant exoplanets,” Seager said. “Most astronomers expected them to be more uniformly heated, much like Jupiter. But this planet clearly has a hot side and a cool side.”

The gas giant planet, named Upsilon Andromeda b, is a so-called "hot-Jupiter" that circles closely around its scorching star every 4.6 days. Seager and her colleagues determined that the temperature variation between the planet’s light side and its dark side is about 2,550 degrees Fahrenheit.

"This planet has a giant hot spot in the hemisphere that faces the star," said lead author Joe Harrington of the University of Central Florida, Orlando. "The temperature difference between the day and night sides tells about how energy flows in the planet's atmosphere. Essentially, we're studying weather on an exotic planet."

The team believes that the planet is "tidally locked" to its star, meaning that the planet rotates slowly enough that the same side always faces its star—much like our tidally locked moon never reveals its "dark side" to the Earth. However, since the planet is made of gas, not rock, its outer atmosphere could move faster than its locked interior.

The extreme temperature difference between the two sides could mean that the atmosphere of Upsilon Andromeda b absorbs and re-radiates sunlight rapidly, allowing the circling gases to quickly cool off as they move from light side to dark side. Jupiter, on the other hand, maintains an even temperature all around.

"If you were moving across the planet from the night side to day side, the temperature jump would be equivalent to leaping into a volcano," said the project's principal investigator, Brad Hansen of the University of California, Los Angeles.

The team used Spitzer’s heat-seeking infrared eyes to periodically stare at the Upsilon Andromeda planetary system over a period of about five days. They found that the system's light dimmed and brightened in time with Upsilon Andromeda b's orbit; this change in observed light, or heat, is the result of the planet showing its different faces as it travels around the star. When the planet's sunlit side was in Earth's view, Spitzer detected more light from the system; when its dark side was facing us, Spitzer picked up less light. The technique takes advantage of the fact that planets stand out better relative to their stars when viewed in infrared light.

"This is a spectacular result," said Michael Werner, project scientist for Spitzer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "When we designed Spitzer years ago, we did not anticipate that it would be revolutionizing extrasolar-planet science."

Upsilon Andromeda b was discovered in 1996 around the star Upsilon Andromeda, which is 40 light-years away and visible to the naked eye at night in the constellation Andromeda. The star is circled by two other known planets, both located farther out than Upsilon Andromeda b. The plane of this planetary system is tilted relative to our solar system, such that the planets are always in Earth's line of sight.

Dr. Sara Seager | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht First results of NSTX-U research operations
26.10.2016 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

nachricht Scientists discover particles similar to Majorana fermions
25.10.2016 | Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Advanced analysis of brain structure shape may track progression to Alzheimer's disease

26.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

More VideoLinks >>>