Page last updated at 09:39 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

Distant planet's roasting orbit

HD 80606b simulation of atmospheric behaviour
A simulation of how the atmosphere would behave under this heating

Nasa's Spitzer space telescope has observed a far-off planet that experiences wild temperature swings.

The gas giant has an elongated orbit that sweeps it to within a few million km of its star, before taking it back out to more than 115 million km.

Spitzer saw the planet's atmosphere heat up from 530C to 1,230C in a matter of hours as it passed behind and close to its star.

The observations, reported in Nature journal, are the first of their type.

"We watched the development of one of the fiercest storms in the galaxy," said astronomer Greg Laughlin of the Lick Observatory, University of California, Santa Cruz.

"This is the first time that we've detected weather changes in real time on a planet outside our Solar System."

HD 80606b is about three times as massive as Jupiter, the biggest planet in our Solar System.

It was originally discovered in 2001 by a Swiss-based team.

The planet is located about 190 light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major.

Print Sponsor

Exoplanets finally come into view
13 Nov 08 |  Science & Environment

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2018 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific