Astronomers Measure Wind Speeds of 8,690Kmph on Exoplanet
An exoplanet located about 63 light-years away has winds reaching a staggering 8,690kmph, around 20 times faster than ever recorded on Earth, according to the first ever weather map of a planet outside our solar system.
The finding by researchers at University of Warwick in the UK is the first time that a weather system on a planet outside of Earth’s solar system has been directly measured and mapped.
The wind speed recorded is 20 times greater than the fastest ever known on Earth, where it would be seven times the speed of sound, researchers said.
“This is the first ever weather map from outside of our solar system. Whilst we have previously known of wind on exoplanets, we have never before been able to directly measure and map a weather system,” said lead researcher Tom Louden, of the University of Warwick’s Astrophysics group.
Discovered on the exoplanet HD 189733b, researchers measured the velocities on the two sides of HD 189733b and found a strong wind moving at over 8,690kmph blowing from its day-side to its night side.
“HD 189733b’s velocity was measured using high resolution spectroscopy of the Sodium absorption featured in its atmosphere,” said Louden.
Researchers said the techniques used could help the study of Earth-like planets.
“We are tremendously excited to have found a way to map weather systems on distant planets,” said co-researcher, Dr. Peter Wheatley of the University of Warwick’s Astrophysics Group.
“As we develop the technique further we will be able to study wind flows in increasing detail and make weather maps of smaller planets. Ultimately this technique will allow us to image the weather systems on Earth-like planets,” said Wheatley.
HD 189733b is one of the most studied of a class of planets known as ‘Hot Jupiters’.
At over 10 percent larger than Jupiter, but 180 times closer to its star, HD 189733b has a temperature of 1,200-degrees Celsius.
Its size and relatively closeness to our solar system make it a popular target for astronomers. Past research has shown that the day side of the planet would appear a bright shade of blue to the human eye, probably due to clouds of silicate particles high in its atmosphere.
The data was collected by HARPS, the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher, in La Silla, Chile.