- NASA’s Hubble space telescope has spotted a blistering hot planet outside our solar system where it “snows” sunscreen.
- The planet, called Kepler-13Ab, circles very close to its host star, Kepler-13A, said the study published in the Astronomical Journal.
- Kepler-13Ab, which is more than 1,730 light-years from Earth, is so close to its parent star that it is tidally locked.
- One side of the planet always faces the star and the other side is in permanent darkness.
- The problem is the sunscreen — titanium oxide — precipitation only happens on the planet’s permanent night-time side, leaving the sizzling hot, daytime side, without protection.
- The astronomers believe that powerful winds carry the titanium oxide gas around to the colder night-time side, where it condenses into crystalline flakes, forms clouds, and precipitates as snow. Kepler-13Ab’s strong surface gravity — six times greater than Jupiter’s — pulls the titanium oxide snow out of the upper atmosphere and traps it in the lower atmosphere.
- The observations confirm a theory that this kind of precipitation could occur on massive, hot planets with powerful gravity.
- “Presumably, this precipitation process is happening on most of the observed hot Jupiters, but those gas giants all have lower surface gravities than Kepler-13Ab.