Saturday, July 20, 2024

This distant and deadly planet smells like rotten eggs, scientists say


As if its deadly weather wasn’t bad enough, scientists this week said a Jupiter-sized planet 64 light-years from Earth reeks of rotten eggs. 

HD 189733 b is an exoplanet, which means it’s located outside of our solar system. The atmosphere has clouds “laced with glass”, and that glass pours down as rain, according to NASA. In a study published Monday in the journal Nature, researchers said the atmosphere also has trace amounts of hydrogen sulfide, causing the smell. 

Dangerous wind, temperature and rain on “hot Jupiter”

HD 189733 b is what is known as a hot Jupiter planet, which are gas giants with extremely high temperatures. They closely orbit their stars, which make them “infernally hot,” according to NASA. 

It takes just 2.2 days for HD 189733 b to orbit its star and, because of its proximity to its star, it has a surface temperature of 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit, scientists said. For comparison, it takes Jupiter — the one in our solar system — about 12 Earth years to orbit the sun.

NASA refers to HD 189733 b as a “nightmare world” and a “killer you never see coming.” 

“To the human eye, this far-off planet looks bright blue. But any space traveler confusing it with the friendly skies of Earth would be badly mistaken,” the space agency wrote in a 2016 post. “The weather on this world is deadly.”

Winds blow up to 5,400 miles an hour. That howling wind blows about the dangerous glass rain, with NASA writing that “getting caught in the rain on this planet is more than an inconvenience; it’s death by a thousand cuts.”

Studying HD 189733 b

The James Webb Space Telescope has been used to study the deadly exoplanet, which was discovered in 2005. Researchers say the new stinky atmosphere discovery gives scientists new clues about how sulfur could influence both the insides and the atmospheres of gas worlds outside of Earth’s solar system.

“We’re not looking for life on this planet because it’s way too hot, but finding hydrogen sulfide is a stepping stone for finding this molecule on other planets and gaining more understanding of how different types of planets form,” Guangwei Fu, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University who led the research, said in a statement

Studying the sulfur can help scientists understand more about how planets are made and what they’re made of, Fu said. Going forward, Fu and his research team intend to track sulfur in other exoplanets. 

“We want to know how these kinds of planets got there, and understanding their atmospheric composition will help us answer that question,” Fu said.



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