Research Highlights

A Jupiter-like distant planet shows unusual winds

doi:10.1038/nindia.2018.20 Published online 16 February 2018

Astrophysicists have discovered a peculiar wind-blowing pattern on a Jupiter-like distant planet. Unlike on other exoplanets, where wind blows to the east, winds on this planet blow to the west1.

Known as CoRoT-2b, the planet closely orbits a star that heats up the outer layer of its atmosphere, inflating and turning it into a gas giant, like Jupiter. In fact, it is bigger, heavier and hotter than Jupiter. Lying 930 light-years from the Earth, it stands out with its mysterious wind-blowing pattern.

Analysing pictures captured by NASA’s Spitzer Space telescope, an international research team, including an astronomer from the Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in Kerala, India, identified possible reasons for CoRoT-2b’s strange wind-blowing pattern.

Previous studies had detected nine other hot Jupiter-like planets whose winds blow to the east, as theory would predict. But CoRoT-2b spins slowly, causing its winds to lag and drift westward, the researchers explain. 

They say that CoRoT-2b could have a strong, deep-seated magnetic field that generates a magnetic drag, slowing down wind speed and redirecting surface winds. Magnetic effects are also attractive, as they can explain the large temperature difference between the dayside and the nightside of the planet, and the inflated radius.

Besides understanding what makes such hot planets tick, the astronomers were able to map the surface brightness of the planet.


References

1. Dang, L. et al. Detection of a westward hotspot offset in the atmosphere of hot gas giant CoRoT-2b. Nature. Astronomy. (2018) doi:10.1038/s41550-017-0351-6