Thursday, August 06, 2009
A new NASA space probe has tested its scientific instruments on a very hot giant planet which is orbiting a sun similar to our own in a galaxy far, far away, and this discovery will likely be the first of many for the rookie voyager.
NASA's Kepler space telescope trained its newly calibrated telescope instruments on a gaseous planet very similar to Jupiter. Kepler discovered that the planet's surface is very hot since its orbit is so close to its sun, known as HAT-P-7, as it takes only 2.2 days to orbit the star. The planet is called HAT-P-7b and has an estimated day surface temperature of about 4,300 degrees Fahrenheit. It's night surface drops down to about 1,100 degrees as HAT-P-7b moves around in circular orbit.
The bright planet orbits the star in a solar system located 1,000 light years from earth. A light year is 5.87 trillion miles.
This newly discovered exoplanet is twenty-six times closer to it's sun (3.7 million miles) than earth's distance (92.9 million miles) to her own sun. According to NASA's Ames Research Center, the hot planet "is so close to its star, the planet is as hot as the glowing red heating element on a stove".
The enlarged NASA artist image above shows just how dynamic the conditions on this gaseous planet really are. Methane, carbon dioxide, helium gaseous make up most of it's limited atmosphere.
The director of the Science Mission Directorate's Astrophysics Division at NASA, Jon Morse, stated today, "As NASA's first exoplanets mission, Kepler has made a dramatic entrance on the planet-hunting scene. Detecting this planet's atmosphere in just the first 10 days of data is only a taste of things to come."
Launch from Cape Canaveral in March, Kepler is on a nearly four year mission to discover earth-size planets outside our own galaxy. It is currently nine million miles from earth.