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Where the sky rains glass: Hubble finds a deep blue planet

July 11, 2013|By Amy Hubbard

Hubble has three more years to live, and NASA's making the most of them. The latest from our favorite space telescope: a cobalt blue planet from the class known as "hot Jupiters."

NASA said Wednesday morning in an announcement that the planet, 63 light-years from Earth, would look like a deep blue dot if we were close enough to view it directly.

What causes the blue color of planet HD 189733b?  It's likely glass, NASA explains, raining in the atmosphere. Sideways. Yes, you read that right.

This strange world, called a hot Jupiter because of its proximity to its parent star, could very well contain "high clouds laced with silicate particles," according to the space agency.  The silicates condense in the planet's extreme heat -- 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.  Winds of 4,500 mph hurl the small drops of glass through the atmosphere, which "scatters" the blue light. 

Amazing stuff. Just think what Hubble's replacement will be able to see.

As the Los Angeles Times' Karen Kaplan reported in March, although Hubble is still going strong after nearly 23 years, a replacement is in the works.

"The James Webb Space Telescope will have a mirror that’s six times bigger, with more than 100 motors to focus it. The new telescope is way over budget and way behind schedule, but NASA officials expect it will launch in 2018."

Until then, we can't wait to see what Hubble glimpses next.

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