Weather on a Different World Discovered

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has made the first measurements of the day and night temperatures of a planet outside our solar system. The infrared observatory revealed that the giant, gaseous, Jupiter-like planet revolving around its nearby sun is always as hot as fire on one side, and potentially as cold as ice on the other. Scientists believe that this gas giant rotates so slowly that the same hemisphere is always oriented towards its sun. “This planet has a giant hot spot in the hemisphere that faces the star” said Dr. Joe Harrington of the University of Central Florida, Orlando, lead author of a paper appearing online today in Science. “The temperature difference between the day and night sides tells about how energy flows in the planet’s atmosphere. Essentially, we’re studying weather on an exotic planet.”

The finding represents the first time any kind of variation has been detected across the surface of a planet outside our solar system. Previous measurements of extrasolar planets described only global traits like size and mass.

More information and pictures from NASA’s press release.