Through an exciting new technique, astronomers found an exoplanet where winds blast at 5400 mph, which makes it the first object outside or solar system with a mapped out weather system.
- Researchers on HD 189733b, using the HARPS telescope and Doppler Effect
- HD 189733b has temperatures over 3,200oF, is 10% bigger than Jupiter and 180 times closer to its own star
- They found winds across its surface of 5400 mph, which is 20 times more powerful than the strongest one ever recorded on Earth
- Their technique could help map out weather systems on other planets or exoplanets
Researchers at the University of Warwick have made an exceptional discovery. By using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) telescope from La Silla, Chile, they managed to understand the weather system on exoplanet HD 189733b. This is the first time astronomers have managed to understand the winds on a foreign planet outside our solar system.
HD 189733b is giant mass of gas, with incredibly high temperatures that reach 1,800oC (over 3,200oF). It’s one of the exoplanets that remain intently in the scrutinizing attention of astronomers due to its size and relatively small distance from our own solar system. The exoplanet has been labeled as one of the ‘Hot Jupiters’, and yet is 10% bigger than the largest planet in our own part of the galaxy.
It has a beautifully bright blue color due to the glass particles within its upper atmosphere. This offers it an exceptional glow, being 180 times closer to its own start than Jupiter is to the Sun. However, its wind patterns have been in the interest of the researchers, looking for new methods to study weather systems on foreign planets. HD 189733b was their perfect target.
Through the use of HARPS, they measured the exoplanet’s velocity on both sides, and the subtle shifts in light wavelengths across its atmosphere. As it moved toward and away from Earth, they analyzed the patterns and speeds, correcting for its actual rotation, and using the Doppler Effect to ascertain its winds.
Simply put, the Doppler Effect is a change in frequency in a wave (light, sound, etc.) for the observer, relative to the position of its source. For example, this is why the sound of a siren gets higher pitched as it grows nearer. They used the effect for the purpose of measuring the light patterns across the exoplanet, taking out estimations of its rotation, and focusing precisely on the winds across its surface.
They found that the powerful gusts shoot at speeds of 5400 mph from its daytime to nighttime side. This is 20 times more powerful than the fastest wind ever recorded on Earth. Specifically, it was back in 2006, when Hurricane Olivia recorded devastating winds of 253 mph. Even more, the speed of light across HD 189733b was 7 times faster than it is on our own planet.
While this certainly means HD 189733b is not the perfect vacation spot, the technique in itself is the focus of their paper.
It could help map out crucial weather patterns on rockier and more hospitable planets that have been outside of our reach. According to co-author of the study, Dr. Peter Wheatley, they will be able to understand the flows on smaller planets and, ultimately, aid in our search for Earth-like bodies in the vastness of our solar system. Or even beyond.
Image source: theage.com.au