Raining Sunscreen? The Atmosphere of Kepler 13Ab

1296 Views | Published on 7th Nov, 2017

Kepler-13Ab is one of the hottest known planets, with a dayside temperature of nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit and is located 1,730 light-years from Earth.

It has an unusual atmosphere that appears to contain titanium oxide (like sunscreen). The science team observed the Kepler 13 system and found that the atmospheric temperature of the hot planet gets colder with altitude, different from some other planets. But titanium oxide would cause the upper atmosphere to heat up. So what is going on? Likely the material is carried around to the nighttime side of the planet, away from the blistering heat, where it cools and rains down to the surface. Because the planet is so large, the titanium oxide is trapped on the surface and does not get mixed back up into the atmosphere. The Hubble observations allow astronomers to detect this precipitation process (called a "cold trap"), for the first time.

Join Tony Darnell and Carol Christian during Afternoon Astronomy Coffee on October 26, 2017 at 3PM Eastern (Daylight) Time as they discuss with Thomas Beatty and Jason Wright (Pennsylvania State University) as well as Nikku Madhusudhan (University of Cambridge) about this unusual exoplanet and how they deciphered the observations.

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