NASA’s Spitzer Puts Planets In A Petri Dish


Our galaxy is teeming with a wild variety of planets. In addition to our solar system’s eight near-and-dear planets, there are more than 800 so-called exoplanets known to circle stars beyond our sun. One of the first “species” of exoplanets to be discovered is the hot Jupiters, also known as roasters. These are gas giants like Jupiters, but they orbit closely to their stars, blistering under the heat.

Thanks to NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, researchers are beginning to dissect this exotic class of planets, revealing raging winds and other aspects of their turbulent nature. A twist to come out of the recent research is the planets’ wide range of climates. Some are covered with a haze, while others are clear. Their temperature profiles, chemistries and densities differ as well.

“The hot Jupiters are beasts to handle. They are not fitting neatly into our models and are more diverse than we thought,” said Nikole Lewis of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, lead author of a new Spitzer paper in the Astrophysical Journal examining one such hot Jupiter called HAT-P-2b. “We are just starting to put together the puzzle pieces of what’s happening with these planets, and we still don’t know what the final picture will be.”

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-155

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