A massive planet that orbits very close to its parent star actually snows sunscreen, scientists have found using the Hubble telescope.
There’s no need to apply lotion to your skin on a newly discovered planet recently spotted by Hubble, as it actually “snows” sunscreen. Of course, you probably couldn’t survive on Kepler-13Ab anyway, which circles very close to its host star, but it’s certainly a stunning new detail about yet another incredibly unique planet discovered by astronomers thanks to Hubble.
Kepler-13Ab is located more than 1,730 light-years from Earth, and it orbits so close to its star that it is tidally locked, meaning one side is always light and the other side is always dark. Sunscreen, or titanium oxide, forms as precipitation on the night time side, so you wouldn’t be getting the sunscreen where you’d actually need it.
Scientists think that winds carrying the titanium oxide gas to the dark side of the planet, where it then turns into flakes and falls as “snow.” The snow gets trapped in the lower atmosphere thanks to Kepler-13Ab’s insane gravity, which is six times that of Jupiter, the solar system’s most massive planet.
“In many ways, the atmospheric studies we’re doing now on these gaseous ‘hot Jupiter’ kinds of planets are test beds for how we’re going to do atmospheric studies of terrestrial, Earth-like planets,” said Thomas Beatty, assistant research professor of astronomy at Penn State and the lead author of the study. “Understanding more about the atmospheres of these planets and how they work will help us when we study smaller planets that are harder to see and have more complicated features in their atmospheres.” The team’s results are published in October 2017 issue of The Astronomical Journal.