NASA said Wednesday morning in an announcement that the planet, 63 light-years from Earth, would look like a deep blue dot if we were close enough to view it directly.
What causes the blue color of planet HD 189733b? It’s likely glass, NASA explains, raining sideways in the atmosphere according to the Los Angeles Times.
Fox News states that as far as planets go, HD 189733b, a giant, sizzling Jupiter-like world that swoops around its parent star every 2.2 days, couldn’t be more different from Earth.
Astronomers weren’t specifically thinking about HD 189733b’s color per se when they requested observation time on the Hubble Space Telescope, according to Fox News.
They were following up previous studies showing the planet had clouds with an attempt to learn more about what is in its atmosphere.
As HD 189733b moved around its star, astronomers used Hubble’s light-splitting spectrograph to home in on specific wavelengths of light reflecting off the planet’s surface.
After the planet had slipped behind its star, the light reportedly seen by Hubble dropped deeply into the blue part of the electromagnetic spectrum “while all other colors remained the same, a telltale sign of the planet’s color.”
Astronomer Frederic Pont, with the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, wrote in an email to Discovery News: “Our best guess is that the color is due to a combination of reflection by silicate clouds and absorption by sodium atoms.”
“Other factors may be photochemical aerosols — i.e. smog — and absorption by other atoms or molecules than sodium,” though presently are no specific candidates,” he added.
Fox News stated “driving the planet’s extreme environment is its unenviable position 30 times closer to its parent star than Earth orbits the sun. At that distance, surface temperatures reach more than 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.”
They continued on to say that the planet is likely gravitationally locked with one side permanently facing its star and the other in darkness. That dichotomy can generate wild winds that surpass 4,350 mph.
“I think of this planet in some ways as being about as alien a planet as you could possibly imagine,” astronomer Heather Knutson, with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, told Discovery News.
“If we could actually see it in person, I think we would find that there’s no good comparison we could make with anything that we’re familiar with. That’s what makes it interesting,” she added.
What do you think of this new blue planet?
[Image via Youtube]