Scientists Have Discovered a Jupiter-Like Exoplanet with a Complex Weather System
Whether we're experiencing rain or shine here on Earth, scientists usually have an explanation for the changes we're seeing in our day-to-day forecast. But when it comes to outer space, weather-related activity is still something experts are working to understand, and they're learning more each day. According to the Daily Mail, researchers from SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research and the University of Groningen recently found an exoplanet that closely resembles Jupiter, and noted it has a weather system despite its 2,192-degree Fahrenheit surface temperatures.
In their study published in Astronomy and Astrophysics, the team explained that they used NASA's Hubble Space telescope to uncover these findings on the exoplanet, formally called WASP-31b, which is about one-and-a-half times the size of Jupiter, but only half of its weight. It is housed in the "twilight zone" and one side of the planet faces its host star, which is also the size of the Sun. Also known as a "puffy planet," this exoplanet makes its way around the star about every three-and-a-half days. After taking a close look at WASP-31b, the researchers found chromium hydride on its surface and saw liquid and gas created from the compounds. This transformation produced a weather system, causing rain on the night side of the planet and gas on the day part of the planet.
"Hot Jupiters, including WASP-31b, always have the same side facing their host star," Michiel Min, a study co-author and SRON Exoplanets program leader, said. "We therefore expect a day side with chromium hydride in gaseous form and a night side with liquid chromium hydride. According to theoretical models, the large temperature difference creates strong winds. We want to confirm that with observations." The team plans to do more research with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) this year to find out how a weather system can truly operate. "With JWST we are looking for chromium hydride on ten planets with different temperatures, to better understand how the weather systems on those planets depend on the temperature," Floris van der Tak, a study co-author, said.
In other weather-centric news in the galaxy, experts also saw something interesting on one of our neighboring planets: Mars. In a research paper published in Science Advances, scientists noted that the summer landslides that occur on the "Red Planet" are due to underground salts and melting ice. Researchers from SETI Institute made a mock-up of frozen soil on Mars in a miniature lab experiment and noticed that it thawed and turned into slushy water in summer-like temperatures that would actually occur on the planet. These findings help scientists understand Mars' "dynamic and active environment" that is still ever-changing. "I am excited about the prospect of microscale liquid water on Mars in near-surface environments where ice and salts are present," said Dr. Janice Bishop, a study author and SETI Institute senior research scientist. "This could revolutionize our perspective on habitability just below the surface on Mars today."