Since the discovery of the first exoplanet in 1995, scientists have been eager to study these distant worlds. With the launch of the Kepler space telescope in 2009, they finally had the opportunity to do so. Kepler has found thousands of exoplanets, including many that are similar in size and composition to our own Solar System. A hot Jupiter exoplanet has been the focus of intense study by scientists for years. The planet, which is much like our own Jupiter but much hotter, has a dark side that scientists have now been able to examine in detail. The results of their study have revealed some intriguing findings of the planet’s atmosphere and weather patterns.
In recent years, they have used powerful telescopes to examine the atmospheres of hot Jupiters—gas giants that orbit close to their stars. Now, a team of researchers has used the Hubble Space Telescope to probe the dark side of one such planet.
Although exoplanets’ atmospheres have been mapped by astronomers for some time, a detailed look at their night side has been difficult to find. An MIT-led study has given the first detailed view of a ” hot Jupiter” exoplanet by mapping WASP121b’s attitude-based temperature and water presence levels. The differences between the bright and dark sides of the distant planet, which is located 850 light-years from Earth, are striking.
Extremely violent water cycles are caused by the planet’s dark side. The daytime heat is so extreme that water can be smashed with high temperatures of 4,940F. However, nighttime temperatures are just 2,780F and the water can be recombined into water. This results in water atoms being thrown around the globe at more than 11,000 MPH. The dark side of the planet is cool enough to produce clouds of iron, corundum (a mineral found in sapphires and rubies), and rain that contains liquid gems and titanium when the vapor from dayside cools off.
The data was collected using spectroscopy with the Hubble space telescope for two orbits in 2018 (and 2019). This method has been used by many scientists to study the bright side of exoplanets. However, the researchers needed to detect tiny changes in the spectral line that indicates water vapor. This line was used to create temperature maps. The scientists then sent the maps through models to identify possible chemicals.
According to MIT, this is the first comprehensive study of an exoplanet’s global atmosphere. This comprehensive study should help to explain how hot Jupiter’s such as WASP-121b form. While a jovian planet like this is too dangerous for humans it could be helpful to examine exoplanet atmospheres more thoroughly when searching for habitable planets.
A hot Jupiter is a type of exoplanet that orbits its sun very closely, much closer than Jupiter does to our sun. Scientists have been studying these planets in detail in an effort to learn more about their strange and extreme behavior. Recently, a team of scientists used the Hubble Space Telescope to examine the dark side of a hot Jupiter exoplanet in great detail. What they found was surprising and somewhat disturbing.
Scientists have long been fascinated by the thousands of planets that have been discovered orbiting stars other than our Sun. Of particular interest are the so-called “hot Jupiters,” gas giants that orbit their stars very closely, completing one orbit in just a few days. These planets are thought to be similar to Jupiter in terms of size and composition, but because they are so close to their stars, they are much hotter.