These Exoplanets Are Forever Half Dark and Covered in Clouds 

Posted: January 14, 2019 by oldbrew in Astrophysics, atmosphere, Clouds, research, Temperature
Tags: ,

An artist’s image of a hot-Jupiter exoplanet [credit: NASA]

But they seem to have something in common that scientists were not expecting: their nightside temperature.

New research shows how the nightside of all hot Jupiters is covered in clouds, reports Discover Magazine.

Cloudy Hot Jupiters

“Hot Jupiters” exoplanets that resemble our own Jupiter, except for being, well, hot, have another side to them.

We mean this literally: The planets usually don’t rotate [see Tidal Locking note below], so one side is always facing their star, and the other remains in permanent night.

A new study is suggesting that these night sides probably all look the same, no matter where you go in the universe.

They’re dark and covered in opaque clouds.

These new findings are a result of a new study based on observations made with the Spitzer Space Telescope. Assistant astronomer Thomas Beatty of the University of Arizona, who led the new study, discussed the results at the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society today (Jan 7).

The theory helps address a curious trend — the nightside of every hot Jupiter discovered so far was found to be at 1,000 degrees Kelvin. These planets vary greatly in dayside temperatures, so the alignment of nightside temperatures is a mystery.

Nightside Clouds

In this study, the team used Spitzer to observe KELT-1b, a brown dwarf. Brown dwarfs are objects slightly larger than hot Jupiters, just big enough to contain some nuclear fusion, but not big enough to be stars. Despite this, they do look somewhat similar to hot Jupiters, making them ideal for a comparison.

Because KELT-1b is much larger than most hot Jupiters, at 28 Jupiter-masses, the team expected its atmospheric dynamics to be drastically different.

“What we actually found is that KELT-1b looks extremely similar to its skinnier, hot Jupiter, cousins, with a day/night temperature difference right on the hot Jupiter trend. This caused us to take a look at the underlying temperatures on all these planets,” Beatty said in an email.

Shockingly, with Spitzer observations, they found that all discovered hot Jupiters (and KELT-1b) have a nightside temperature of just about 1,000K.

It seems improbable that the temperatures on the dayside and nightside are able to balance out so well that the nightside of every single object in this category is at exactly 1,000K. “So, instead, we argue that clouds must be present in the nightsides to be causing all these planets to have the same observed temperatures,” Beatty added.

How the clouds interact with the atmospheres of hot Jupiters is still largely unknown, but the researchers theorize that they’re helping to trap heat and keep temperatures uniform.

Continued here.
Talkshop note: all planets rotate, so they must mean synchronous rotation i.e. one rotation per orbit of the star in this case. Aka Tidal Locking:

  1. JB says:

    I predict sometime down the road it will be found cloud cover has very little to do with the temperature anomaly, but what causes synchronous rotation does.

  2. oldbrew says:

    ‘but the researchers theorize that they’re helping to trap heat and keep temperatures uniform.’

    What about the lapse rate?

    NB ‘we argue that clouds must be present in the nightsides’ doesn’t fit with the assertion in the article headline 🤔

  3. Brett Keane says:

    Just been involved (wasting breath) in another jackup against N and Z, ATE, at WUWT. At least Anthony let it run and restrained Willis’ arrogance. Doubtful they will think deeply about the Gas Laws etc., but at least our trojans had a good say.
    Anyway, Venus does remind me of these ‘hot Jupiters’……….. Brett