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For the first time, a raging dust storm has been observed on a planet outside the solar system, BTA reported. The discovery was made thanks to the remarkable capabilities of the new James Webb Space Telescope.
For the first time, a raging dust storm has been observed on a planet outside the solar system, BTA reported.
The discovery was made thanks to the remarkable capabilities of the new James Webb Space Telescope.
The storm was spotted on the exoplanet known as VHS 1256b, which is about 40 light-years from Earth.
Dust particles are silicates - small grains consisting of silicon and oxygen that are the basis of most rock minerals.
But the storm discovered by James Webb is not quite the same phenomenon that would occur in a dry, desert region of our planet.
It is more of a rock mist.
"Imagine grains of sand but much finer, we're talking about silicate grains the size of smoke particles," explains Professor Beth Biller of the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh, UK.
“This is exactly what the clouds of VHS 1256b would be like, but much hotter.
This planet is a hot, young object.
The temperature of the cloud is perhaps similar to the temperature of a candle flame," she told the BBC.
VHS 1256b was first identified in 2015 by the UK-developed Vista telescope in Chile.
This is the so-called "super Jupiter" - a planet similar to the gas giant in our own solar system, but much larger, perhaps 12 to 18 times the mass.
It orbits several stars at a great distance - about four times the distance that Pluto is from our Sun.
Earlier observations of VHS 1256b showed it to be red in appearance, suggesting that its atmosphere may contain dust.
James Webb's research confirms it.
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"This is fascinating because it illustrates how different clouds on another planet can be to the water vapor clouds we know on Earth," Professor Biller said, adding: "We see carbon monoxide (CO) and methane in the atmosphere, which is an indication that it is hot and turbulent, with material being drawn up from deep.
There are probably multiple layers of silicate grains.
The ones we see are some of the very, very fine grains that are higher up in the atmosphere, but there may also be larger grains deeper in the planet's mantle."
Telescopes have previously detected silicates in so-called brown dwarfs.
They are essentially huge star-like objects that have failed to "ignite" properly.
But this is the first case for a planet-sized object.
Scientists hope that in the future they will even be able to find out whether some exoplanets have conditions suitable for life.
Astronomers report observations of VHS 1256b by James Webb in the Astrophysical Journal.
James Webb is a joint project of the US, European and Canadian space agencies.
It was launched in December 2021 and is considered the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.