October 9, 2014
A team of scientists using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have made the most detailed map ever of the temperature of an exoplanet’s atmosphere, and traced the amount of water it contains. The planet targeted for both of the investigations was the hot-Jupiter exoplanet WASP-43b.
WASP-43b is a planet the size of Jupiter but with double the mass and an orbit much closer to its parent star than any planet in the Solar System. It has one of the shortest years ever measured for an exoplanet of its size — lasting just 19 hours.
A team of astronomers working on two companion studies have now created detailed weather maps of WASP-43b. One study mapped the temperature at different layers in the planet’s atmosphere, and the other traced the amount and distribution of water vapour within it — detail is shown in the video created by the team.
“Our observations are the first of their kind in terms of providing a two-dimensional map of the planet’s thermal structure,” said Kevin Stevenson from University of Chicago, USA, lead author of the thermal map study. “These maps can be used to constrain circulation models that predict how heat is transported from an exoplanet’s hot day side to its cool night side.”