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Winds 20 Times Faster Than on Earth Recently Measured on One Planet

Nov 16, 2015 02:40 PM EST
Planet HD 189733 at three positions crossing its parent star
For the first time ever, we have a weather map of a planet outside our solar system, says University of Warwick. It indicates that winds there are much, much faster than on Earth. They are quite a bit faster than the speed of sound, in fact.
(Photo : Mark A. Garlick/University of Warwick)

It turns out that winds out there in space are really scouring things. In fact, 5400 mile-per-hour winds were recently measured as they whipped around a planet outside of our solar system, according to a study by the U.K.'s University of Warwick.

The study's measurements represent the first weather map of a planet that is outside of our planetary system, and it shows winds that are 20 times faster than anything ever recorded on Earth. Here, such speeds would be seven times the speed of sound. Also, the techniques used could possibly be applied to studying weather on Earth-like planets, too, according to a release.

The measurements took place regarding the exoplanet called HD 189733b. The research team took readings of the velocities on both sides of the planet and located the 5400mph wind, the planet's fastest, moving from its day-side to its night-side, confirmed the release.

They collected the data using HARPS, the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher, a telescope in Chile devoted to looking at extra-solar planets. With that data, the researchers were able to use high-resolution spectroscopy -- looking at the division of an object into light, or energies -- to view Sodium absorption in the planet's atmosphere. This allowed them to see how the Doppler effect changes the wavelength, indicating velocity. 

Essentially, "The surface of the star is brighter at the center than it is at the edge, so as the planet moves in front of the star the relative amount of light blocked by different parts of the atmosphere changes. For the first time we've used this information to measure the velocities on opposite sides of the planet independently, which gives us our velocity map," said Tom Louden of Warwick in the release.

The scientists' research was recently published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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