Researchers from the University of Warwick have discovered a massive windstorm raging on a planet outside of Earth’s solar system. According to a report from Phys.org, winds on the planet have reached a speed of over 2km per second, faster than any wind recorded on Earth by a factor of 20.
The study, lead by Tom Louden of the University of Warwick’s Astrophysics group, is the first to document the wind speed on a planet outside of our own solar system. According to Louden, “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 planet, named HD 189733b, has some nasty weather. The researchers measured wind speeds on two different sides of the planet that reached levels in excess of 5400 miles per hour, blowing in a direction from the day side to the night side.
Louden says, “HD 189733b’s velocity was measured using high resolution spectroscopy of the Sodium absorption featured in its atmosphere. As parts of HD 189733b’s atmosphere move towards or away from the Earth the Doppler effect changes the wavelength of this feature, which allows the velocity to be measured.”
The scientists noticed that the surface of the star was brighter in the middle than it was at the outer rim, and that as it moved in front of its host star, the amount of light blocked by different sections of the atmosphere changed. The team’s velocity map shows just how fast the winds on HD 189733b are blowing.
The study sheds light on the ongoing search for more planets that are like Earth. According to co-author Dr. Peter Wheatly of the University of Warwick’s Astrophysics Group, the study could determine how astronomers assess the weather on newly discovered planets. He hopes that it will help researchers identify potentially earth-like planets by their weather patterns in the future.
A press release from the University of Warwick detailing the findings of the study can be read here.