Vortex clouds contain larger and smaller particles of silicate dust and are constantly moving.
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has detected swirling clouds of dust on a distant planet orbiting two stars.
The exoplanet, known as VHS 1256 b, lies about 40 light-years from Earth and orbits at a great distance from its stars, ideal conditions for detailed Webb observations, according to Brittany Miles, a University of Arizona researcher and co-author of the new study. writes CNN.
“VHS 1256 b is about four times farther from its stars than Pluto is from our Sun, making it a great target for Webb. This means the planet’s light doesn’t mix with its starlight,” Miles said.
Vortex clouds contain larger and smaller particles of silicate dust, and the clouds are constantly moving. The clouds are also very hot – reaching 1500 degrees Fahrenheit (830 degrees Celsius).
“Smaller silicate particles in its atmosphere may look more like tiny smoke particles. Larger grains may look more like very hot, very small sand particles,” said study co-author Beth Biller, a professor at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
The research team also hypothesized that the silicates circulating in these clouds periodically become too heavy and fall into the depths of the planet’s atmosphere.
VHS 1256 b has a relatively low gravity, which means that its silicate clouds remain higher in the atmosphere, where it is easier for Webb to detect them.
Another reason for such a restless sky is the young age of the planet – 150 million years.
The team used observations from two instruments aboard Webb, a near-infrared spectrograph and a mid-infrared instrument.
Because the planet orbits at such a great distance from its stars, the researchers were able to observe it directly rather than using the more widely used transit method. This is when a planet passes in front of its star, dimming its light, allowing astronomers to determine the exoplanet’s characteristics.
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