This deep azure planet is estimated to be about 63 million light years away from the Earth. With the help of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, scientists have inferred the color of this exoplanet orbiting another star 63 million light years away.
The planet is known as ‘HD189733b’. This is the nearest exoplanet that we can witness its path as it crosses the face of its parental star. The color deduced is a lapis lazuli blue, and if seen directly, would appear to the eye as a blue dot. This is similar to how the earth is seen when in space.
The actual visible-light color of the planet is measured using the Hubble Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph. Changes in the color of light from the planet before, during and after it passes behind its star are recorded. Scientists have discovered that a small dip in the brightness of the light and a slight adjustment in color transpire. “We inferred the color,” said astrophysict and research team leader, Tom Evans. They found that by knowing the wavelength, the color of the planet to our human eye could be imagined.
This is because blue light is scattered on the planet HD1897733b. The beautiful blue haze is not, however, a resultant on blue ocean reflections. It is caused by the extreme environmental conditions on the planet. The planet is classified as a hot Jupiter planet, meaning it is precariously close to its parent star. So close, in fact, that they are gravitationally locked.
This has a profound effect on the environment, as one side is in constant light, and the other in constant dark. The temperature within the light is expected to be close to 2000 degree Fahrenheit. The day side and night side differ by roughly 500 degrees, causing severe winds to rage across the sides.
This is conducive to creating a hazy, ‘blow-torched’ atmosphere. High clouds are formed laced with tiny silicate particles. These particles are smaller than a grain of sand and condense in heat. This then melts to form very small drops of glass, which scatter blue light more than red. With winds of up to 4,000 mile per second, clouds of these shards of blue light are whipped up and create the blue orb that we would see. Current telescopes are unable to view the planet 63 billion light years away but by understanding the application of the science of color, we can imagine it as it is. The blue color is not limited to the silicate particles, and MIT Seager explained it’s also “the absorption at visible wavelengths by sodium,” which is a common feature hot Jupiters share.
Although the physics and climatology of silicate clouds is a new field of atmospheric physics, scientists are excited by these new findings as it opens the door to discovering and understanding the atmospheric conditions for other planets and thereby becoming aware of their respective colors.
The future of star-gazing is changing as science and technology bridge the cosmic gap.
“We are really pushing the limits of what we can measure,” voiced Mr. Evans.
By Jessica Rosslee