James Webb telescope first detected a dust storm on an exoplanet

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(ORDO NEWS) — For the first time in history outside the solar system, astronomers have observed a dust storm. This was made possible by the enhanced capabilities of the James Webb Space Telescope. A powerful storm was seen on the exoplanet VHS 1256 b, located about 40 light years from Earth.

The illustration above shows vortex clouds detected by the James Webb Space Telescope in the atmosphere of VHS 1256 b.

The planet is about 40 light years away and orbits two stars. The clouds of the planet, filled with silicate dust, constantly rise, mix and move.

Thanks to the NIRSpec and MIRI instruments installed on the telescope, James Webb was able not only to observe a distant dust storm, but also to determine what exactly the atmosphere of a distant exoplanet consists of. Scientists have discovered that its upper layer is composed of dense silicate clouds.

According to astronomers, unlike Earth, the exoplanet’s clouds are very hot – about the same as a candle flame (about 1,100 ° C).

“Have you ever had hot sand in your face? But that’s just a breeze compared to the changing conditions found high in the planet’s atmosphere VHS 1256 b.

It is the most volatile planetary object known to date,” the Institute press release states ironically.

The planet VHS 1256 b was discovered by astronomers in 2015. It belongs to the class of Superjupiters with an atmosphere similar to the gas giant of our solar system, but 12 times the mass.

The exoplanet has a 22-hour day but is far from the two stars it orbits (about four times farther than Pluto from the Sun).

That is, the planet makes one revolution around the star in 10 thousand Earth years. The astronomers also found signs of water, methane and carbon monoxide, as well as some signs of carbon dioxide.

From an astronomical point of view, the planet VHS 1256 b is relatively young, only 150 million years old.

As VHS 1256 b gets older, scientists say it will cool down and the powerful cloud cover in its sky could dissipate. And until this event, the planet will continue to boil in a hot cloudy mess.


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