To celebrate Halloween, NASA recently featured a terror-inducing planet from its Exoplanet Exploration site: HD 189733 b.
Located just 63 light-years from Earth, HD 189733 b is a brilliant blue, much like our own plant. It was discovered in 2005, and scientists determined its color in 2013 with the help of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and other instruments.
Despite having a similar appearance to Earth, the two planets are indeed very, very different.
More Than Meets the Eye
According to NASA, HD 189733 b has winds that blow up to 5,400 mph, or seven times the speed of sound. While being whizzed around the planet at a dizzying speed, visitors would be blasted by sideways-raining glass.
In addition to having a very hostile atmosphere, HD 189733 b also has an extreme orbit, spinning around its star at a rate of 1 rotation per 2.2 Earth days. The speed typically causes a satellite to be tidally-locked, meaning it always show the same face to the object it is orbiting. The Moon, by the way, is tidally-locked to Earth, as we always see the same side of it.
If HD 189733 b is so different from Earth, then why does it bear a resemblance? NASA said in a statement that the distant planet’s color comes from the chemistry of its atmosphere.
“The cobalt blue color comes not from the reflection of a tropical ocean, as on Earth, but rather a hazy, blow-torched atmosphere containing high clouds laced with silicate particles,” the space agency said.
One of Hubble’s more recent discoveries is an exoplanet orbiting two stars in a system located 8,000 light-years away towards the center of the Milk Way. The planet accomplishes one orbit around the two stars around once every seven years, and the stars are around 7 million miles apart or 14 times the diameter of the moon’s orbit around the Earth, the scientists behind the discovery explained.
The scientists first found one of the stars and the planet nine years ago using observations from ground-based telescopes, but a closer look showed a third object which could not be recognized, until this year.
Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser
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