Heat Wave on Exoplanet
700 degrees in 6 hours
Laughlin and his colleagues observed the planet HD 80606b, which has four times the mass of Jupiter, with the infrared telescope Spitzer for a total of 30 hours. In this time frame the planet was closest to the star. Something unexpected helped the scientists out as well. Just before the planet reached the point where it is closest to the star it just disappeared for a short while – a secondary eclipse. The orbital plane was unknown, but the coincidence allowed the scientists to separate the planet’s and the star’s radiation.
The data suggests that the planet’s atmosphere got heated from 800 to 1500 Kelvin in only six hours. In the scientists’ opinion the fast heating points to the explanation that the radiation of the star is absorbed in a high layer of the atmosphere. Model calculations show that the heat wave leads to global storms on the planet. The astronomers assume that HD 80606b moves across the star from our perspective. Professional and hobby astronomers alike prepare to observe that primary eclipse in hopes of new conclusive data.
Rainaer Kayser, Phd is a journalist in Hamburg, Germany