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ScienceShot: Hot World Breaks Record

14 January 2011 2:17 pm
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Planetary hells keep getting hotter. Twenty years ago, the hottest known planet was nearby Venus, sizzling at 460°C. Then, planet hunters started finding "hot Jupiters"—giant worlds, hotter than Venus, that orbit close to their stars. Some of these planets were more than 1000°C. Now, in a paper submitted to Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, astronomers report a new record breaker: WASP 33 b, circling a white-hot star 380 light-years away in the constellation Andromeda. A gas giant like Jupiter, the planet whips around its star every 29.28 hours (versus 225 days for Venus), periodically blocking some of the starlight, which tipped astronomers off to the world's presence. Then, in late October, they used the William Herschel Telescope in the Canary Islands and detected the planet's near-infrared glow. This revealed the temperature: a whopping 3200°C. That's hundreds of degrees hotter than the previous champ and makes Venus look like Pluto in comparison.

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