Most of us know that violent winds can cause serious chaos on Earth. However, it appears that our planet has never experienced what exoplanet HD 189733b has encountered. During a recent study, scientists have found that the exoplanet faces wind speeds of over 5,400 mph, which is as much as 20 times higher than the maximum wind speeds recorded on our home planet Earth.
For those who don’t know: scientists recorded the fastest ever wind gust on Earth during Tropical Cyclone Olivia of 1996. The wind speed then was 253 mph.
Astrophysicist Tom Louden, the study’s lead researcher, said that he and his colleagues have come up with the first ever weather map for an area outside our solar system. Louden, who currently works at the University of Warwick, added that although scientists were aware that exoplanets have winds, before this they could never map the weather system of any of those planets or measure wind speeds.
The team of astronomers at Warwick used the La Silla, Chile-based High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher or HARPS for watching the planet. Here, it must be mentioned that HD 189733b is situated far outside our home solar system; the distance between the planet and our solar system is almost 63 light years. HARPS watched the exoplanet as it was passing by its host star.
Louden informed that the brightest spot of HD 189733b’s host star is located at its center; it is comparatively less bright at its edge. As a result, when HD 189733b moves in front of its host star, the relative volume of light obstructed by various parts of the atmosphere varies.
The team under Louden detected wind speeds on the planet by checking the wavelengths for atmospheric sodium. Louden said that when parts of the exoplanet’s atmosphere moves away from or towards our home planet Earth, Doppler Effect alters the wavelength and allows scientists to measure the velocity.
Louden and his colleagues concluded that the amazingly high-paced winds blow to the night side of the exoplanet from its day side.
According to data provided by the Spitzer Space Telescope of NASA, on the day side HD 189733b’s atmosphere can attain a temperature of around 3,700 degrees Fahrenheit. However, on the night side, the planet is over 500 degrees cooler. According to scientists, this temperature shift forces the brutal winds to blow from the planet’s day side to its night side.