A team of researchers have announced they have completed a map of a previously unknown weather system. Unlike other known weather systems however, this map has recorded wind speeds of 5,400 mph, on a planet 63 light-years away.
This new weather map, generated by astrophysicists at the University of Warwick, in Coventry, England, is of exoplanet HD 189733 b. This is a gas giant that is 14% larger than Jupiter, orbiting the star HD 189733 A, found in the constellation of Vulpecula. It is very close to it’s parent star — nearly 13 times closer than Mercury is to the Sun — and orbits it’s star every 2.2 days.
This marks the first time that a weather system has been mapped for a planet outside our solar system. The researchers took advantage of the fact that HD 189733 b is in tidal-lock with it’s parent star, where one side of the planet always faces the sun, allowing them to take distinct spectroscopy measurements of each side. From there, they were able to calculate the speed of the winds flowing from the day side of the planet to the night side. These wind speeds, calculated to be 5,400 mph (8690 km/h), are over 20 times faster than the fastest wind recorded on Earth.
Lead researcher Tom Louden comments on their discovery: “This is the first ever weather map from outside of our solar system. Whilst we have previously known of wind on exoplanets, we have never before been able to directly measure and map a weather system.” The research team is also hopeful that the techniques used here could be applied to map the weather systems of rocky, Earth-like exoplanets, such as the recently discovered world GJ 1132bm. `