Weather plays a huge role here on Earth with regards to daily life. When a weather forecast is wrong, people generally get quite upset. Meteorologists work hard to provide the best data and the most information possible, in order to prepare us for what weather is coming. That being said, things don’t always work out the way they should on paper. More often than not, there are slight differences in how weather actually plays out when held against what meteorologists had forecasted. The point here is that errors happen and they are a part of the job.
That’s why it’s so remarkable that scientists and astronomers are now closer than ever to successfully identifying weather patterns on exoplanets, which are billions of miles away – even beyond our own solar system. The team of scientists looked at six different exoplanets and evaluated their daily weather patterns. In doing so, they were able to understand just how extreme the weather was on those planets.
In particular, they were studying exoplanets, which means that they would be encountering a star other than the sun. That’s part of what made this study so interesting. Knowing that the team wasn’t evaluating a star that was known, and instead studying varying types of sun-like stars, on their way to uncovering some of the most interesting data ever received. As it turns out, one exoplanet in particular, the weather is especially steamy in the afternoon with temperatures approaching and exceeding 2900 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the mornings on the same exoplanet are typically cloudy and what we would consider damp on Earth.
Lisa Esteves of the University of Toronto said that, “We determined the weather on these alien worlds by measuring changes as the planets circle their host stars, and identifying the day-night cycle. We traced each of them going through a cycle of phases in which different portions of the planet are illuminated by its star, from fully lit to completely dark.” She said of the process that, “By comparing the planets’ previously determined temperatures to the phase cycle measurements provided by Kepler, we found that the excess brightness on the morning side is most likely generated by reflected starlight. These four planets are not hot enough to generate this excess light through thermal emission.”
The study’s co-author pointed out that this is really only the beginning when it comes to studying weather patterns on exoplanets. This will give scientists a new level of depth to actually work from when evaluating some of these outside bodies in space and perhaps eventually give scientists the ability to better predict what regions could support life throughout the universe. Overall, it’s a very stirring and intriguing debate that deserves a lot of attention. This study and the studies that will be coming in the future will definitely give scientists a bigger pool of data to work with in order to give us answers in places where we’ve never had them.