If you live in a part of the country that experienced record heat this summer, just be glad you don’t live on a recently discovered planet in the constellation Andromeda. It’s the hottest ever found, with a surface temperature of thousands of degrees Fahrenheit.
The planet is a gas giant similar to Jupiter, the largest planet in our own solar system.
The planet is hot for two reasons. First, its star, known as WASP 33, is hotter and brighter than the Sun. And second, the planet is much closer to its star than Mercury, the innermost planet in the solar system, is to the Sun. In fact, the planet is so close that it takes less than 30 hours to orbit its star.
About this time last year, astronomers discovered just how hot the planet is. They used a telescope in the Canary Islands to measure the planet’s heat radiation. These observations revealed that WASP 33’s planet is a record breaker — it sizzles at a temperature of 5800 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s not just hot, it’s hotter than some stars.
So if you think the temperature where you live gets a bit toasty, just keep in mind that some planets out there make Earth seem positively frosty — even on a hot summer day.
WASP 33 isn’t bright enough to see with the unaided eye. But its constellation, Andromeda, is. It’s high in the east and northeast at nightfall, and stands directly overhead at midnight.
We’ll talk about the darkest planet yet found tomorrow.
Script by Ken Croswell, Copyright 2011
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.