Saturday, October 23, 2010

An Exoplanet With a Mysterious Hot Spot

First discovered in June of 1996 by Geoffrey Marcy and R. Paul Butler, The Exoplanet Upsilon Andromedae b orbits the solar twin star Upsilon Andromedae, located 44 light years from Earth in the Andromedae constellation. Because of it's estimated mass and proximity to it's parent star, which it's believed to orbit in just 4.6 days, UAb is categorized as a type of gas giant known as a "Hot Jupiter" planet. Recent observations of the system, made by the Spitzer Space Telescope, have shown that the planet may have an unexpected hot spot.

The planet itself cannot be observed directly from Earth but the Spitzer Space Telescope is able to measure the total amount of infrared light being emitted by the system in which it resides, which Logically one would expect to rise as the planet made it's way behind it's sun. Instead, Spitzer observed the system to be at it's brightest when the planet was to the side of it's parent star, indicating that it's hottest point was offset by as much as 80 degrees.

While there are several theories as to the cause of this perceived anomaly, including supersonic winds and magnet interactions between planet and star, they are just speculation as even the existence of Upsilon Andromedae b, like most other exoplanets, is based entirely on wobbles in the orbit and dips and rises in the wavelength of light coming from it's parent star.



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