Planet HD80606b has climate where temperatures vary by 555 degrees C in six hours

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Oh good, another weird planet. Actually it's not a newly discovered planet but this new information shows it to be odd enough that there's a fair bit of news on it which is good. Here's what makes it interesting:

Within six hours, temperatures on the gas giant can soar by more than 555 degrees C.

The intense baking triggers shock-wave storms that whip around the planet quicker than the speed of sound, carrying with them skyrocketing heat and high-speed winds.
What makes this happen is its exceptionally elongated orbit:
HD 80606b's orbit around its host star — it's year — is 111.4 Earth-days long. Its day — one rotation about its axis — is thought to last about 34 hours (though the scientists don't measure this value directly). The interesting thing is that its orbit is very elongated, the most eccentric of any known planet.

The giant planet spends most of its year at relatively comfortable distances that would place it between Venus and Earth in our own solar system. But for just a fraction of one day each year, the planet swings to within 0.03 astronomical units (AU) of its star. (One AU is the average distance between the Earth and sun.)

"If you could float above the clouds of this planet, you'd see its sun growing larger and larger at faster and faster rates, increasing in brightness by almost a factor of 1,000," said Gregory Laughlin, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
The team found that in just six hours, the planet's temperature rose from 527 to 1,227 degrees C. At its closest approach, the planet receives 825 times more irradiation than it does at its farthest point from the star.

Here's its Wikipedia page, and to see an image of its orbit compared to inner planets in our solar system click here.

Edit: I was going to post the link to this article, but it doesn't even specify whether the degrees it's referring to are Celsius or Fahrenheit which is annoying. Nothing on the page except perhaps the .com in the address gives any hint as to whether it's written for American or other audiences.


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