Astronomers using data from NASA’s Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes have created the first cloud map of a planet beyond the solar system, a sizzling, Jupiter-like world known as Kepler-7b.
The planet is marked by high clouds in the west and clear skies in the east. Kepler-7b (above on the left) is 1.5 times the radius of Jupiter (right).
“By observing this planet with Spitzer and Kepler for more than three years, we were able to produce a very low-resolution ‘map’ of this giant, gaseous planet,” said Brice-Olivier Demory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Demory is lead author of a paper accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Kepler has discovered more than 150 exoplanets, which are planets outside the solar system, and Kepler-7b was one of the first.
Other authors of the study include: Julien de Wit, Nikole Lewis, Andras Zsom and Sara Seager of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Jonathan Fortney of the University of California, Santa Cruz; Heather Knutson and Jean-Michel Desert of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena; Kevin Heng of the University of Bern, Switzerland; Nikku Madhusudhan of Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut; Michael Gillon of the University of Liège, Belgium; Vivien Parmentier of the French National Center for Scientific Research, France; and Nicolas Cowan of Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.
For more on the Kepler-7b research, see the NASA press release.