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Weather map of distant world revealed

Layers of clouds made up of hot dust and droplets of molten iron have been detected on a planet-like object found 75 light-years from Earth.
RELATED TOPICS: EXOPLANETS
Artist's impression of PSO J318.5-22
This is an artist's impression of PSO J318.5-22.
MPIA/V.Ch.Quetz
Weather patterns in a mysterious world beyond our solar system have been revealed for the first time, a study suggests.

Layers of clouds made up of hot dust and droplets of molten iron have been detected on a planet-like object found 75 light-years from Earth.

Findings from the study could improve scientists’ ability to find out if conditions in far-off planets are capable of sustaining life.

Cloud cover
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh used a telescope in Chile to study the weather systems in the distant world — known as PSO J318.5-22 — which is estimated to be around 20 million years old.

They captured hundreds of infrared images of the object as it rotated over a five-hour period.

By comparing the brightness of PSO J318.5-22 with neighboring bodies, the team discovered that it is covered in multiple layers of thick and thin clouds.

Measuring brightness
The far-off world is around the same size as Jupiter — the largest planet in our solar system — but is roughly eight times more massive.

Temperatures inside clouds on PSO J318.5-22 exceed 1,500° F (800° C).

The team was able to accurately measure changes in brightness on PSO J318.5-22 because it does not orbit a star.

Stars like our Sun emit huge amounts of light, which can complicate measurements made of the brightness of objects orbiting them.

Earth-like planets
Such techniques may eventually be applicable to cooler lower mass planets, which are more likely to be capable of supporting life. "We're working on extending this technique to giant planets around young stars, and eventually we hope to detect weather in Earth-like exoplanets that may harbor life," said Beth Biller from the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy.
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