Sunday, July 14, 2013

Big bluer marble

I don't often blog about space, preferring to remain grounded with more earthly topics because so much about astronomy boggles my mind. For instance, NASA and the European Space Agency just announced the discovery of a planet orbiting a star 63 light-years away. A light-year, as you may remember from science class, is the distance that light travels in a vacuum in 365 days, which means that HD 189733b (as it is known) is 378,000,000,000,000 miles (630,000,000,000,000 km) away from us. Even as far away as that, astronomers have been able for the first time to determine the actual color of a planet outside our solar system. Using the Hubble Space Telescope – which was almost allowed to die, but is now expected to function through at least next year – they have identified the color as a deep azure blue. They have also calculated that the planet is 10 times closer to its star than Mercury is to our sun, so its temperature is 2,000°F (1,093°C). But here is the reason I wanted to bring this to your attention. Because this planet's atmosphere contains high clouds laced with silicate particles and has winds of 4,500 mph (7242 km/h), it rains liquid glass sideways.

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