Severe storm on an Exoplanet
These computer generated images trace the development of severe weather patterns on the highly eccentric HD 80606b exoplanet during the days after its closest approach to its parent star. An exoplanet is a planet that orbits a star different from our sun.
The images were produced by computational simulations that modeled the measurements of the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope from the radiating heat of the planet. The six frames are uniformly spaced in time, starting from 4.4 days after approaching the planet near the star, a moment known as “periastron”, and running through 8.9 days after periastron. The blue glow of the crescent is the starlight that has been scattered and reflected by the planet. Starlight appears blue because the planet absorbs very much the red light. The night side appears orange-red as it shines with its own internal heat.
These theoretical models allow astronomers to better understand the weather patterns on distant planets. Although direct telescopic observations of the atmospheres of such worlds may be decades away, such simulations give us a clue as to what we can see when it becomes possible.
Spitzer’s observations stretched over the relatively brief period when global warming was the most intense, running from 20 hours before 10 hours after periastron. Data were collected in November 2007.
HD 80606b is located 190 light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. Your star can be seen with binoculars.