Astronomers find planet which they think has clouds made of ruby and sapphire raw material

Astronomers find planet which they think has clouds made of ruby and sapphire raw material
An artist's impression issued by the University of Warwick of the distant planet HAT-P-7b.

A planet located more than 1,000 light years away may have clouds made from the raw material of rubies and sapphires, say scientists.

If corundum clouds do exist on the planet, a gas giant 16 times larger than Earth, they would be "visually stunning", astronomers believe.

Corundum is a rock-forming mineral that comes in a range of colours including the red and blue of rubies and sapphires, the two gem stones it is famous for forming.

In addition, traces of powerful winds have been detected on the planet, HAT-P-7b. It is the first time weather patterns have been studied on a gas giant outside the solar system.

Large-scale changes to the strong winds were likely to lead to "catastrophic storms", said the scientists.

Signs of the turbulence were revealed in light reflected from the planet's atmosphere observed by the Kepler space telescope.

Lead researcher Dr David Armstrong, from the University of Warwick, said: "Using the Nasa Kepler satellite, we were able to study light reflected from HAT-P-7b's atmosphere, finding that the atmosphere was changing over time.

"HAT-P-7b is a tidally locked planet, with the same side always facing its star. We expect clouds to form on the cold night side of the planet, but they would evaporate quickly on the hot day side.

"These results show that strong winds circle the planet, transporting clouds from the night side to the day side. The winds change speed dramatically, leading to huge cloud formations building up then dying away. This is the first detection of weather on a gas giant planet outside the solar system."

Temperatures on the side of the planet that always faces its star could be as high as 2,860 Kelvin (2586.85C) say the scientists.

The research is published in the first issue of the new journal Nature Astronomy.

More in this Section

Prince Andrew has no regrets about Epstein friendship, but final visit was wrongPrince Andrew has no regrets about Epstein friendship, but final visit was wrong

Donald Trump undergoes health check-upDonald Trump undergoes health check-up

Prince Andrew could not have slept with accuser ‘because he was at Pizza Express’Prince Andrew could not have slept with accuser ‘because he was at Pizza Express’

Jeremy Corbyn hails Labour manifesto that gives ‘promise of a better Britain’Jeremy Corbyn hails Labour manifesto that gives ‘promise of a better Britain’


Lifestyle

About 70% of our planet is covered in water, in one form or another and it is vital to our survival.Appliance of science: Where does water come from?

Touched by the last rays of the sun, the grey mud of the estuary is dimpled with silver pools. Above them, rooks fly in their thousands, rooks uncountable, on different levels of the air.Interplay of rooks above Cillmanister a lovely mystery

A NEW survey confirms the presence of at least six rare spiders in Killarney National Park.Six rare spiders found in Killarney National Park

IT WAS written about an old ruin in Co Wexford but it may as well have been written for any other place.Islands of Ireland: Cows come home to Inishbarra

More From The Irish Examiner