Watching the Skies: Exoplanet has extreme weather, study shows

Watching The Skies

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new study was published last week on an extraordinary exoplanet that goes by the name of K2-141b. This exoplanet was discovered in 2017, but some new details have recently come to light that will likely make you very grateful to live on our planet Earth.

This planet is much closer to its star than Earth is, and as much as two thirds of the planet are always sunlit. On that side, temperatures can be as high as 3000°C, or 5432°F. For the third of the planet that faces away from the sun, temperatures are closer to -200°C, or -328°F.

The high temperatures and consistent light on parts of the planet have led scientists to believe there are oceans of magma that are several miles deep. Winds blow at about 1.1 miles per second —That’s faster than the speed of sound.

On top of the winds and oceans of lava, precipitation doesn’t fall as liquid like it does on Earth. Researchers believe that precipitation can fall in the form of solid rock.

This planet has been studied by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope. The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled to launch next year and will allow researchers to keep studying the planet and learning about planetary evolution.

Back on Earth, we’ll be treated to a view of two planets next to the waning crescent moon this week. On the mornings of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, look to the east before daybreak. Venus will be easy to spot and Mercury will be closer to the horizon beneath it. The moon will be above Venus and Mercury on Wednesday and Thursday, and between the two planets on Friday.

The constellation Orion will also be something to look for this week. Orion has reappeared in our skies and will be easy to spot for the next several months. It currently climbs in the east a few hours after sunset.

To find Orion, just look for the three stars that are in a straight line. These stars make up Orion’s belt. The line of stars is currently pointing up, making it look as though Orion is lying on his side.

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