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Deep Blue Planet Similar to Earth's Color Found 63 Light Years Away

Image: Deep Blue Planet Similar to Earth's Color Found 63 Light Years Away

Friday, 12 Jul 2013 08:14 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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A deep blue planet similar to the color of Earth has been found by Hubble Space Telescope astronomers orbiting a star 63 light-years away, NASA researchers announced Thursday.

Scientists tamped down excitement. Even though the planet's deep cobalt blue color resembles Earth, said NASA scientists, they believe it is "not an Earth-like world."

Researches said Hubble spotted the planet during and after passes behind its star. NASA said researchers noticed a change in the color of light.

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"We saw the light becoming less bright in the blue but not in the green or red," Frederic Pont, a research member from the University of Exeter in South West England, said in a NASA news release. "Light was missing in the blue but not in the red when it was hidden. This means that the object that disappeared was blue."

But the color is where the planet's similarity to Earth ends. NASA described the planet as a "turbulent alien world" with temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime with winds up to 4,500 miles per hour. NASA said researchers believe that planet possibly rains glass.

According to NASA, the planet's blue color comes from "a hazy, blow-torched atmosphere containing high clouds laced with silicate particles," quite different from the oceans of water that gives Earth its cobalt blue color.

NASA scientists said the planet is so close to its star that it is in what is called a "gravitational lock," meaning it does not rotate with one side always facing its star and the other side always dark. Researchers first noticed the planet in 2005, but the latest details are just now coming to light, NASA said.

Scientists told The Guardian that being able to detect the color of a planet with more advanced technology could help researchers figure out which ones could be habitable. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2013/jul/11/alien-deep-blue-planet-astronomers)

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"If you could see the color of an exoplanet changes over time it would be very revealing. At first, the cloud cover would be the thing to go for," Pont told The Guardian.

The Hubble Telescope continues to reveal mysteries of planets beyond our solar system. Even though it is more than 20 years old, it was updated by astronauts during a 2009 space shuttle mission, The Guardian wrote. The newspaper said without Hubble, no other space telescopes could look at planets in visible wavelengths.

Related stories:


New 'extreme' Hubble Shows Deepest View Yet of Night Sky

NASA to Launch New Mars Rover in 2020

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