NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope made another out-of-this-world discovery: A giant red planet outside the solar system.
Nasa’s telescope has detected ‘turbulent’ cloud skies of sand in the atmosphere of a huge exoplanet that orbits two stars over a 10,000-year period.
The study is published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
According to the study, the planet is considered to be a “young planet” at only 150 million years old and that’s why the sky appeared turbulent.
The researchers used the state-of-the-art telescope to study the motions of the clouds which were bringing hotter material up and pushing colder material down on the planetary mass companion VHS 1256 b, about 40 light-years away from Earth.
Identifying for the first time the largest ever number of molecules at once on a planet outside our solar system, the team also discovered clear detections of water, methane, and carbon monoxide with Webb’s data, and found evidence of carbon dioxide.
The red planet has two suns and is located 40 light years away from Earth.
“We’ve identified silicates, but better understanding which grain sizes and shapes match specific types of clouds is going to take a lot of additional work. This is not the final word on this planet – it is the beginning of a large-scale modeling effort to fit Webb’s complex data,” said lead author Brittany Miles of the University of Arizona, US.
“This is an exciting finding because it illustrates how different clouds on another planet can be from the water vapor clouds we are familiar with on Earth. These silicate clouds are like a perpetual, very fine-grained but very hot sandstorm in the atmosphere.
“Directly observing them answers some longstanding questions in astronomical research and is a significant step on our journey to understand planetary-mass objects such as this,” said Beth Biller, co-author of the study and professor, at the University of Edinburgh, UK.
The scientists were also able to observe the planet directly because of its great distance from its stars, rather than using the transit technique or a coronagraph to take these data.