Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .




EXO WORLDS
Astronomers Find Weird, Warm Spot On An Exoplanet
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Oct 20, 2010


NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has found that the hottest part of a distant planet, named upsilon Andromedae b, is not under the glare of its host star as might be expected. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope reveal a distant planet with a warm spot in the wrong place. The gas-giant planet, named upsilon Andromedae b, orbits tightly around its star, with one face perpetually boiling under the star's heat. It belongs to a class of planets termed hot Jupiters, so called for their scorching temperatures and large, gaseous constitutions.

One might think the hottest part of these planets would be directly under the sun-facing side, but previous observations have shown that their hot spots may be shifted slightly away from this point. Astronomers thought that fierce winds might be pushing hot, gaseous material around.

But the new finding may throw this theory into question. Using Spitzer, an infrared observatory, astronomers found that upsilon Andromedae b's hot spot is offset by a whopping 80 degrees. Basically, the hot spot is over to the side of the planet instead of directly under the glare of the sun.

"We really didn't expect to find a hot spot with such a large offset," said Ian Crossfield, lead author of a new paper about the discovery appearing in an upcoming issue of Astrophysical Journal. "It's clear that we understand even less about the atmospheric energetics of hot Jupiters than we thought we did."

The results are part of a growing field of exoplanet atmospheric science, pioneered by Spitzer in 2005, when it became the first telescope to directly detect photons from an exoplanet, or a planet orbiting a star other than our sun. Since then, Spitzer, along with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, has studied the atmospheres of several hot Jupiters, finding water, methane, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.

In the new study, astronomers report observations of upsilon Andromedae b taken across five days in February of 2009. This planet whips around its star every 4.6 days, as measured using the "wobble," or radial velocity technique, with telescopes on the ground. It does not transit, or cross in front of, its star as many other hot Jupiters studied by Spitzer do.

Spitzer measured the total combined light from the star and planet, as the planet orbited around. The telescope can't see the planet directly, but it can detect variations in the total infrared light from the system that arise as the hot side of the planet comes into Earth's field of view. The hottest part of the planet will give off the most infrared light.

One might think the system would appear brightest when the planet was directly behind the star, thus showing its full sun-facing side. Likewise, one might think the system would appear darkest when the planet swings around toward Earth, showing its backside. But the system was the brightest when the planet was to the side of the star, with its side facing Earth. This means that the hottest part of the planet is not under its star. It's sort of like going to the beach at sunset to feel the most heat. The researchers aren't sure how this could be.

They've guessed at some possibilities, including supersonic winds triggering shock waves that heat material up, and star-planet magnetic interactions. But these are just speculation. As more hot Jupiters are examined, astronomers will test new theories.

"This is a very unexpected result," said Michael Werner, the Spitzer project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., who was not a part of the study. "Spitzer is showing us that we are a long way from understanding these alien worlds."

The Spitzer observations were made before it ran out of its liquid coolant in May 2009, officially beginning its warm mission.

Other authors of the study are Brad Hansen of UCLA; Joseph Harrington at the University of Central Florida, Orlando; James Y-K. Cho of Queen Mary, University of London, United Kingdom; Drake Deming of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; Kristen Menou of Columbia University, New York, N.Y.; and Sara Seager of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston.

.


Related Links
Spitzer at NASA
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





EXO WORLDS
Planet Hunters No Longer Blinded By The Light
Tucson AZ (SPX) Oct 20, 2010
Using new optics technology developed at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory, an international team of astronomers has obtained images of a planet on a much closer orbit around its parent star than any other extrasolar planet previously found. The discovery, published online in Astrophysical Journal Letters, is a result of an international collaboration among the Steward Observ ... read more


EXO WORLDS
NASA to buy private moon data

NASA Awards Contracts For Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data

NASA Thruster Test Aids Future Robotic Lander's Ability To Land Safely

NASA official: Moon still matters

EXO WORLDS
Emerging Underground Aquifers Formed Martian Lakes

Revealing More About The Atmosphere Of Mars

Rover Nears 15 Miles Of Driving On Mars

Long-Lived Mars Odyssey Gets New Project Manager

EXO WORLDS
NASA Selects 215 Small Business Research And Technology Projects

A New System For Locating And Capturing Satellites In Space

Sciencespace Hotel Project To Be Launched After Contract Is Signed - Energia

British media join forces against Murdoch BSkyB takeover

EXO WORLDS
International Crews for Shenzhou

China Eyes Extended Mission Beyond Moon

China's second lunar probe enters moon's orbit: state media

Lunar Probe And Space Exploration Is China's Duty To Mankind

EXO WORLDS
Counting Down For ESA MagISStra Mission To Space Station

Glamorous spy sees Russian rocket blast off for ISS

Russian rocket blasts off carrying three astronauts to ISS

Russian manned spacecraft docks with ISS: official

EXO WORLDS
ILS Proton Successfully Launches XM-5 Satellite

Ariane Moves Into Final Phase Of Globalstar Soyuz 2 Launch Campaign

Arianespace Hosts Meeting Of Launch System Manufacturers

Political Obstacles For Sea Launch Overcome

EXO WORLDS
Astronomers Find Weird, Warm Spot On An Exoplanet

New techniqe aiding planet searches

Planet Hunters No Longer Blinded By The Light

How To Weigh A Star Using A Moon

EXO WORLDS
Northrop Grumman Begins Flight Testing New B-2 EHF Satcom Hardware

TerraSAR-X And TanDEM-X Flying In Close Formation

TechDemoSat-1 To Demonstrate UK Innovation In Space

Apple net profit up 70 percent, 4.19 million iPads sold




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement