Space & Astronomy
Weather observed on distant gas giant planet
By T.K. Randall
December 12, 2016 · 1 comment
The gas giant is situated very close to its star. Image Credit: NASA; ESA; G. Bacon, STScI
Astronomers have observed strong winds and changing cloud cover on an alien planet for the first time.
Situated 1,000 light years away in the constellation Cygnus, the gas giant HAT-P-7b, which is 16 times the size of the Earth, has been revealed like never before thanks to a team of astronomers from the UK who analyzed four years of data from the Kepler Space Telescope to determine how its brightest point ( created by the light reflecting off clouds in its atmosphere ) changed over time.
"These results show that strong winds circle the planet, transporting clouds from the night side to the dayside," said study co-author Dr David Armstrong. "The winds change speed dramatically, leading to huge cloud formations building up then dying away."
In the near future it should also be possible to observe the weather on smaller exoplanets as well.
"This is one piece of the puzzle," said Dr Simon O'Toole of the Australian Astronomical Observatory.
"We can hopefully make more direct measurements when we go to the next generation of ground-based telescopes, so the Giant Magellan Telescope, the 30-metre telescope, or the next generation of space telescopes, in particular something like the James Webb Space Telescope."
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