Cosmic Spectacle: Giant Exoplanet Unveils Mesmerizing Beauty with Dual Suns and Swirling Sand, a Celestial Dance Beyond Imaginatio

Earthly sandstorms can be powerful and dangerous, but they pale in comparison to those of distant exoplanet VHS 1256 b. This planet orbits two suns, located some 40 light-years from Earth. NASA’s Webb space telescope spotted the evidence for its swirling clouds, which are composed of silicate particles that range in size from tiny smoke-like specks to sand-like grains.

Webb Detects Silicate Clouds on Nearby Brown Dwarf | Sci.News

The sand grains sometimes combine (as water droplets in clouds do on Earth), get heavy, and then fall like rain. The scientists said:

The atmosphere is constantly rising, mixing, and moving during its 22-hour day, bringing hotter material up and pushing colder material down.

The resulting brightness changes are so dramatic that it is the most variable planetary-mass object known to date.

The JWST Early Release Science Program for Direct Observations of Exoplanetary Systems II: A 1 to 20 Micron Spectrum of the Planetary-Mass Companion VHS 1256-1257 b | Living future, news from space

An international team of researchers announced the findings on March 22, 2023. The group published the peer-reviewed details of the discovery in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on March 20.

Last chance to get a moon phase calendar! Only a few left. On sale now.

Meet a giant exoplanet

Exoplanet VHS 1256 b and Its Stars (Illustration) | Webb

The planet – VHS 1256 b (or VHS 1256-1257 b) – is huge, with a mass 19 times (+/- five times) the mass of our solar system’s largest planet, Jupiter.

Unlike most exoplanets found so far, it orbits far from its stars, about four times the distance of Pluto from our sun. On average, Pluto is 3.7 billion miles (5.9 billion km) from our sun.

Pluto takes 248 earthly years to complete a single orbit. But VHS 1256 b is so far away from its stars that it takes 10,000 years to complete one orbit. Lead author Brittany Miles of The University of Arizona said:

VHS 1256 b is about four times farther from its stars than Pluto is from our sun, which makes it a great target for Webb. That means the planet’s light is not mixed with light from its stars.

VHS 1256-1257 b

Cloudy, with a chance of silicate rain

The Hubble Space Telescope has studied VHS 1256 b before. But these scientists say the new observations from Webb are the most detailed yet.

Webb analyzed the planet’s atmosphere with its Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) instruments.

NASA Has Now Confirmed More Than 5,000 Planets Outside Our Solar System - IGN

The planet is almost completely covered by clouds, and the atmosphere consists of a complex assortment of various molecules. This includes carbon dioxide, water, methane and carbon monoxide. These are, in fact, the largest number of molecules ever detected at the same time in the atmosphere of an exoplanet. Andrew Skemer of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said:

No other telescope has identified so many features at once for a single target. We’re seeing a lot of molecules in a single spectrum from Webb that detail the planet’s dynamic cloud and weather systems.

Co-author Beth Biller of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland said:

The finer silicate grains in its atmosphere may be more like tiny particles in smoke. The larger grains might be more like very hot, very small sand particles.

A treasure chest of data from Webb

These first findings are exciting, but there is more to come. The researchers say that they are like the first “coins” pulled out of a treasure chest of data. As Miles noted:

We’ve identified silicates. But better understanding which grain sizes and shapes match specific types of clouds is going to take a lot of additional work. This is not the final word on this planet. It’s the beginning of a large-scale modeling effort to fit Webb’s complex data.

Biller added:

There’s a huge return on a very modest amount of telescope time. With only a few hours of observations, we have what feels like unending potential for additional discoveries.

Bottom line: NASA’s Webb space telescope has detected swirling, gritty clouds of silicates and numerous molecules in the atmosphere of a giant exoplanet 40 light-years away.

Sia

Related Posts

Kuiper Belt’s Vastness Challenges Solar System Mapping, Forcing a Reevaluation of Celestial Dimensions

An illustration of the Kuiper Belt. (Image credit: NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook) NASA’s New Horizons mission, which encountered Pluto in 2015 is now riding through the deepest depths of…

Are You Ready? Top 10 US Cities for 2024’s Great American Eclipse, Spanning from Texas to Indiana and Beyond

On April 8, more than two dozen US cities will plunge into darkness when a total solar eclipse completely blots out the sun. These cities are in…

Journey Through Time: Voyager’s Encounter with Jupiter 45 Years Ago, a Fascinating Comparison with Modern-day Planet Imagery

Voyager was one of NASA’s most ambitious missions, and Jupiter is arguably our solar system’s most beautiful planet. So when the two met for the first time,…

James Webb Telescope Captures Unbelievable 13 Billion-Year-Old Galaxy, Defying Known Laws of Existence, Perplexing NASA

NASA’s new space telescope spotted a 13 billion-year-old galaxy that is much too complex to exist that early in the universe. The galaxy, which is bigger than…

Webb Space Telescope Unveils Neutron Star Birth from Supernova 1987A, A Monumental Milestone in Cosmic Discovery

I can remember seeing images of SN1987A as it developed back in 1987. It was the explosion of a star, a supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud….

Helicopter’s Homage: Ingenuity’s Martian Memorial Pays Tribute to ‘Undying Lands’ from ‘Lord of the Rings’ in Legendary Gesture

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover captured this mosaic showing the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at its final airfield on Feb. 4, 2024. The Ingenuity team has nicknamed the spot…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *