Hubble Telescope Spots Blue Planet, And It’s Not Earth

Data from the Hubble space telescope has helped determine that a planet orbiting a nearby star likely shares Earth’s deep-blue tones, but the similarities stop there, according to USA Today.

Fox News states that as far as planets go, HD 189733b, a giant, sizzling Jupiter-like world that swoops around its parent star every 2.2 days, couldn’t be more different from Earth. Astronomers weren’t specifically thinking about HD 189733b’s color per se when they requested observation time on the Hubble Space Telescope.

They were following up previous studies showing the planet had clouds with an attempt to learn more about what is in its atmosphere. As HD 189733b moved around its star, astronomers used Hubble’s light-splitting spectrograph to home in on specific wavelengths of light reflecting off the planet’s surface.

After the planet had slipped behind its star, the light reportedly seen by Hubble dropped deeply into the blue part of the electromagnetic spectrum "while all other colors remained the same, a telltale sign of the planet’s color."

Astronomer Frederic Pont, with the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, wrote in an email to Discovery News: "Our best guess is that the color is due to a combination of reflection by silicate clouds and absorption by sodium atoms."

"Other factors may be photochemical aerosols and absorption by other atoms or molecules than sodium," though presently are no specific candidates," he added. At that distance, surface temperatures reach more than 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit."

They continued on to say that the planet is likely gravitationally locked with one side permanently facing its star and the other in darkness. That dichotomy can generate wild winds that surpass 4,350 mph.

"I think of this planet in some ways as being about as alien a planet as you could possibly imagine," astronomer Heather Knutson, with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, told Discovery News.