ScienceShot: A Blue Alien World

Sid is a freelance science journalist.

Scientists have for the first time discerned the true color of an exoplanet. The world, which orbits a star about 63 light-years from Earth, is a beautiful azure blue, but that's not because it sports inviting turquoise oceans. In fact, it's a huge gas giant where 1000°C, 7000-kilometer-per-hour winds are thought to be laced with silicate particles, which scatter blue light back into space. (So, in essence, the planet is a howling blast furnace where it rains sand and glass.) Scientists were able to determine the planet's color because its orbit carries the body behind its parent star as seen from Earth. At times when the planet is hidden, the amount of light reaching sensors at blue wavelengths drops dramatically while others remain relatively constant, the researchers will report in a forthcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Previous studies of the so-called hot Jupiter have suggested that the planet was blue, but the new data truly pin down the color, the researchers say.