Scientists find blue planet

A team of astronomers from NASA and its European counterpart, ESA, said Thursday they had found another blue planet a long, long way from Earth, 63 light-years away – a planet that "rains glass".

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An artist's image of Planet HD 189733b. AFP photo

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Far, far away: another blue planet

A team of astronomers from NASA and its European counterpart, ESA,  said Thursday they had found another blue planet a long, long way from Earth, 63 light-years away. That is, it takes light, travelling at 299,705 km/second, 63 years to get here from there.

Blue, of course, brings to mind our own planet with its vast oceans, abundant oxygen and, above all, life.

Well, planet HD 189733b may be blue, but that is where its similarity with Earth ends.

Using the Hubble Space Telescope, the scientists found that the exoplanet, a planet outside our solar system, orbits very close to its host star and its atmosphere is heated to over 1,000 degrees Celsius.

It is so hot, in fact, that it "rains glass, sideways, in howling 7,000 kilometre-per-hour winds," said the statement from the scientists.

Its blue colour comes not from the reflection of a tropical ocean, as in Earth's case, but a hazy, turbulent atmosphere believed to be laced with silicate particles – the stuff of which glass is made.

These particles scatter blue light, said the team.

HD 189733b is an example of a "hot Jupiter" planet, similar in size to the gas giants in our own Solar System, but much closer to its parent star.

A total of 723 confirmed exoplanets have been found since the first was spotted in 1995. None appear to be able to support life.

Adapted from an AFP story.

Related search: blue exoplanet, HD 189733b, NASA

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