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Odd planet's extreme global warming: Highs of 2240

A study published in the latest issue of Nature indicates there is a distant planet -- HD 80606b -- which is four times the size of Jupiter and is able to heat up more than 1,200 degrees in just six hours.

"We watched the development of one of the fiercest storms in the galaxy," Lick Observatory astronomer Greg Laughlin said in a statement.  "If you could float above the clouds of this planet, you'd see its sun growing larger and larger at faster and faster rates, increasing in brightness by almost a factor of 1,000."

The NASA Spitzer Space Telescope was used to study the changing weather on HD 80606b -- a first for a planet outside of our solar system. It also has a very distinct orbit, as it comes closer to its sun than Mercury's distance from the Earth's sun, before launching away to be just as far as Earth is from the sun.

When it's closest to the sun, radiation is 800 times stronger than when it is orbiting far away from the sun.  The planet orbits the star in 111 days.  The extremely high heat and severe temperature changes obviously make it unlikely any signs of life exist on the planet.

"The orbit is extremely eccentric," Laughlin said in the NASA statement.  "Of the expolanets that have been detected -- we've observed 300 -- this is the most extreme orbit we've seen so far."

The odd orbit accounts for the planet's extreme temperature change, with the planet normally averaging a temperature around 980 degrees.

Astronomers look forward to learning more about the planet, especially its odd orbit that causes extreme temperature changes.  They also want to try and get a direct image of the planet sometime in the future, and leave behind artist's interpretations.





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