Hubble Probes Extreme Weather on Ultra-Hot Jupiters

From NASA

In studying a unique class of ultra-hot exoplanets, NASA Hubble Space Telescope astronomers may be in the mood for dancing to the Calypso party song “Hot, Hot, Hot.” That’s because these bloated Jupiter-sized worlds are so precariously close to their parent star they are being roasted at seething temperatures above 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hot enough to vaporize most metals, including titanium. They have the hottest planetary atmospheres ever seen.

In two new papers, teams of Hubble astronomers are reporting on bizarre weather conditions on these sizzling worlds. It’s raining vaporized rock on one planet, and another one has its upper atmosphere getting hotter rather than cooler because it is being “sunburned” by intense ultraviolet (UV) radiation from its star.

This research goes beyond simply finding weird and quirky planet atmospheres. Studying extreme weather gives astronomers better insights into the diversity, complexity, and exotic chemistry taking place in far-flung worlds across our galaxy.

“We still don’t have a good understanding of weather in different planetary environments,” said David Sing of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, co-author on two studies being reported. “When you look at Earth, all our weather predictions are still finely tuned to what we can measure. But when you go to a distant exoplanet, you have limited predictive powers because you haven’t built a general theory about how everything in an atmosphere goes together and responds to extreme conditions. Even though you know the basic chemistry and physics, you don’t know how it’s going to manifest in complex ways.”

In a paper in the April 7 journal Nature, astronomers describe Hubble observations of WASP-178b, located about 1,300 light-years away. On the daytime side the atmosphere is cloudless, and is enriched in silicon monoxide gas. Because one side of the planet permanently faces its star, the torrid atmosphere whips around to the nighttime side at super-hurricane speeds exceeding 2,000 miles per hour. On the dark side, the silicon monoxide may cool enough to condense into rock that rains out of clouds, but even at dawn and dusk, the planet is hot enough to vaporize rock. “We knew we had seen something really interesting with this silicon monoxide feature,” said Josh Lothringer of the Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah.

In a paper published in the January 24 issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters, Guangwei Fu of the University of Maryland, College Park, reported on a super-hot Jupiter, KELT-20b, located about 400 light-years away. On this planet a blast of ultraviolet light from its parent star is creating a thermal layer in the atmosphere, much like Earth’s stratosphere. “Until now we never knew how the host star affected a planet’s atmosphere directly. There have been lots of theories, but now we have the first observational data,” Fu said.

By comparison, on Earth, ozone in the atmosphere absorbs UV light and raises temperatures in a layer between 7 to 31 miles above Earth’s surface. On KELT-20b the UV radiation from the star is heating metals in the atmosphere which makes for a very strong thermal inversion layer.

Evidence came from Hubble’s detection of water in near-infrared observations, and from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope’s detection of carbon monoxide. They radiate through the hot, transparent upper atmosphere that is produced by the inversion layer. This signature is unique from what astronomers see in the atmospheres of hot-Jupiters orbiting cooler stars, like our Sun. “The emission spectrum for KELT-20b is quite different from other hot-Jupiters,” said Fu. “This is compelling evidence that planets don’t live in isolation but are affected by their host star.”

Though super-hot Jupiters are uninhabitable, this kind of research helps pave the way to better understanding the atmospheres of potentially inhabitable terrestrial planets. “If we can’t figure out what’s happening on super-hot Jupiters where we have reliable solid observational data, we’re not going to have a chance to figure out what’s happening in weaker spectra from observing terrestrial exoplanets,” said Lothringer. “This is a test of our techniques that allows us to build a general understanding of physical properties such as cloud formation and atmospheric structure.”

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, in Washington, D.C.

Illustration of KELT-20b Credit: NASA, ESA, Leah Hustak (STScI)

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fretslider
April 9, 2022 3:22 am

“If we can’t figure out what’s happening on super-hot Jupiters…”

They haven’t yet figured out what’s happening on Earth. At least exoplanets are politically neutral

Last edited 4 months ago by fretslider
Peta of Newark
Reply to  fretslider
April 9, 2022 4:54 am

Squirrels – all these far distant places are riddled. with them pesky little sqwerlies.

Tell you wot Hubble Bubble Squirrel and Trouble Super Sputnik, howzabout you affect your gaze downwards for a while…
<shudders> maybe it did – there’s loads of Sqwerlies live in The Sherwood Forest.
Poor bastids -what a way to go
🙁

Meanwhile, vaguely back on topic – what do we make of this hyper inflated ‘worse-than-we-though‘?

https://californiaagnet.com/2022/02/22/concurrent-heat-waves-becoming-more-frequent/

fretslider
Reply to  Peta of Newark
April 9, 2022 5:05 am

When it comes to commenting on climate only those with two periods – ie 60 years or more – have a handle on how things climate have changed or not.

So anybody under that age hasn’t the experience to say anything.

Rocketscientist
Reply to  fretslider
April 9, 2022 9:08 am

Here’s your take-away:

“Even though you know the basic chemistry and physics, you don’t know how it’s going to manifest in complex ways.”

That is why some processes are called chaotic.
We understand the physics of adding heat until a material changes phases, but a watched pot never boils with the exact same pattern.

Brad-DXT
Reply to  Rocketscientist
April 9, 2022 10:47 am

You beat me to the punch. I had to run errands or I would have beat you. 😊

Pat Frank
Reply to  Rocketscientist
April 9, 2022 1:12 pm

Here’s another take-away: “on super-hot Jupiters where we have reliable solid observational data, we’re not going … to figure out what’s happening in …terrestrial exoplanets,..

We’re as close as we can get to having 50 years of rock-solid observational data about the local terrestrial planet and we still can’t figure out what’s happening with its climate.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Pat Frank
April 9, 2022 3:22 pm

 “on super-hot Jupiters where we have reliable solid observational data”

You can stop right there. They have zero observational data. only inferential.

Joao Martins
April 9, 2022 4:18 am

More science-fiction.

What is the meaning of “extreme” in Jupiter?

fretslider
Reply to  Joao Martins
April 9, 2022 4:24 am

Emmanuel Macron

“French President Macron Admits He’s A “Jupiterian”
https://www.newsweek.live/posts/french-president-macron-admits-hes-a-jupiterian

Tom Abbott
April 9, 2022 5:34 am

The study of solar systems is getting better all the time.

We are going to have the Webb telescope come online soon and that will make things even better.

Uncounted numbers of solar systems in the universe.

We live in an amazing place.

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Tom Abbott
April 9, 2022 6:11 am

A big improvement over the last place, that’s for sure.

Rocketscientist
Reply to  Tom Abbott
April 10, 2022 9:49 am

My colleagues and I had our fingers (and toes) crossed during launch, deployment and tests hoping our systems worked as desired. All seems to be working well so far.

GeologyJim
April 9, 2022 7:11 am

“This is compelling evidence that planets don’t live in isolation but are affected by their host star”

DUH

But 97% of terrestrial climate “scientists “ agree robustly that no such process operates in our Solar system

April 9, 2022 7:18 am

“We still don’t have a good understanding of weather in different planetary environments,”

Nobody even has a good understanding of Earth’s climate…

Felix
April 9, 2022 7:57 am

I sometimes think the real shame of climate alarmunism is all that scientific talent going to waste compared to even research like this with so little immediate gain.

Thenn I realize that the alarmunist “researchers” wouldn’t recognize real science if it bit them in the butt, and certainly couldn’t do it. The only thing they know how to do is push papers to get grants.

Walter Sobchak
April 9, 2022 8:34 am

Why study the atmospheres of exotic planets if they don’t have CO2?

CO2 is the only substance that controls climate. The Science Is Settled! These people are wasting our time and our money by distracting us with misinformation and denialism!

/sarc

Gunter
April 9, 2022 9:02 am

This is from NASA?
temperatures above 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hot enough to vaporize most metals, including titanium.

Wikipedia: Titanium: Melting point1941 K ​(1668 °C, ​3034 °F)Boiling point3560 K ​(3287 °C, ​5949 °F)

Yes, 5949 degrees F is above 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. And the budget of NASA is above 1 million USD a year 😉

Brad-DXT
Reply to  Gunter
April 9, 2022 10:43 am

Melting, vaporizing, close enough for government work?

Paul S.
April 9, 2022 9:27 am

When you’re hot, you’re hot. When you’re not, you’re not.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Paul S.
April 9, 2022 1:17 pm

Jerry Reed tells the story.

Smart Rock
April 9, 2022 9:30 am

seething temperatures above 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hot enough to vaporize most metals, including titanium

3,000°F = 1,649°C. Boiling point of titanium is 3,287°C. Melting point of titanium is 1,668°C.

The ignorance of the people who write these releases is monumental; it’s the kind of highly refined ignorance that requires a general arts degree and probably a spell in journalism school to achieve.

Brad-DXT
Reply to  Smart Rock
April 9, 2022 10:52 am

I believe this is probably a journalism school attendee. They are known to have the least qualifications to opine on almost any topic. That makes them perfect to only write what they are told to write.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Smart Rock
April 9, 2022 3:26 pm

They did say “most metals”, not all metals. So far two people have commented using only one metal as an example.

Dusty
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
April 9, 2022 7:46 pm

That is because the story stated “including titanium”, which is not true. Of the 31 metals in the periodic table, the boiling point of 12 are greater than 3000d C. To add some additional context, four more are 2800d C or greater (six are pikers at less than 1,000d C.)

Is the 3000d C temperature claimed precise or rounded and from what point, a number like 2750d C or what?

Just because it is very hot doesn’t mean it’s okay to exaggerate in an effort to prove it.

Editor
April 9, 2022 9:46 am

Personally, I think these astronomers are hallucinating “facts” about planets that may not even actually be there….we can’t even reliably predict Earth weather….and they want to describe weather on planets, if there, the information about which has traveled through 400 light years of space, through unknowable amounts of stuff (matter, energy fields, etc).

Sounds so much to me like reading 1950s Popular Science magazine articles full of wild speculation worthy of John Campbell’s sci-fi mags.

Brad-DXT
Reply to  Kip Hansen
April 9, 2022 10:41 am

John Campbell had some good stories so, yay NASA Storytime?

Editor
Reply to  Brad-DXT
April 9, 2022 11:53 am

Brad ==> John Campbell did same great writing, but more importantly, he guided the entire SciFi genre to greater heights. He is a shining example of the need of good editors who help writers write better stories and books.

Jeff Alberts
April 9, 2022 3:20 pm

Come on. They can’t even see the planets, they can only infer their existence. And any speculation about the planets’ make up is just fantasy land.

ATheoK
April 9, 2022 6:50 pm

In a paper in the April 7 journal Nature, astronomers describe Hubble observations of WASP-178b, located about 1,300 light-years away.”

It is astonishing that NASA, can collect sufficient amounts of a 41 trillion mile distant planet’s reflected radiative photons, could resolve a reliable image. Let alone measure clouds and wind velocity. Even with large error bounds.

So much so, that this smacks of a model. Another NASA model of dubious ability.

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