Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Shocking" Superstorm Seen on Exoplanet

Record-breaking supersonic winds are blasting through the atmosphere of the hot gas giant HD209458b, which orbits a distant star. By studying the "fingerprints" of carbon monoxide gases racing between the planet's day and night sides, astronomers are getting a rare glimpse into the storm.

"We were shocked to find that the resulting pressure and temperatures differences between the hotter light side and cooler dark side triggers such fierce winds," said study leader Ignas Snellen, an astronomer at Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands. "Incredibly this tempest encompasses the entire planet, blowing at speeds of 5,000 to 10,000 kilometers [about 3,100 miles to 6,200 miles] per hour."

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