Exoplanet Watch: HAT-P-7b – Cloudy With A Chance Of Rubies
The first ever exoplanet meteorology report has found the building blocks of sapphires and rubies in the clouds of an exoplanet.
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Whilst it might not have a particularly catchy name, scientists think that HAT-P-7b has some rather interesting characteristics. Scientists from the University of Warwick, UK, have spent time looking closely at the brightness of a distant exoplanet, called HAT-P-7b, in an effort to learn more about the huge planets unusual composition.
They have found that the planet is about 40% larger than the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter, and it’s pretty hot due to the proximity to its star. A year on the planet lasts just 2 of our own days, causing the heat to rise to about 1927 °C or 2200 degrees kelvin. The brightest parts of the planet moved around over time, which is probably caused by clouds and great storms in the atmosphere.
Like many exoplanets that are close to their star, HAT-P-7b is observed to be tidally locked, meaning that one side of the planet is always facing the star and the other constantly faces away. It is thought that because the side facing away from the star would be much cooler than the other side, clouds might form in this region and get blown onto the hot side of the planet.
“The winds transport clouds from the night side, so the cloud bank stretches some way into the day side before finally evaporating. As the clouds evaporate, the planet absorbs more light and warms up, strengthening the winds.” – David Armstrong, University of Warwick.
The scientists think that the clouds would be made mostly of corundum, which is a mineral that build sapphires and rubies over long periods of time on Earth. This is believed to be because of the boiling temperature necessary, but more studies are needed to confirm these speculations.
“When we say clouds, they’re definitely not clouds like on the Earth. The planet is so hot that minerals would be vaporized.” – David Armstrong, University of Warwick.
The Kepler Space Telescope was used to look at the planet in details, but future projects such as the James Webb Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s PLATO telescope will be more advanced and allow us to see the planet up close.
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