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Rapid heating of the atmosphere of an extrasolar planet


Near-infrared observations of more than a dozen ‘hot-Jupiter’ extrasolar planets have now been reported1,2,3,4,5. These planets display a wide diversity of properties, yet all are believed to have had their spin periods tidally spin-synchronized with their orbital periods, resulting in permanent star-facing hemispheres and surface flow patterns that are most likely in equilibrium. Planets in significantly eccentric orbits can enable direct measurements of global heating that are largely independent of the details of the hydrodynamic flow6. Here we report 8-μm photometric observations of the planet HD 80606b during a 30-hour interval bracketing the periastron passage of its extremely eccentric 111.4-day orbit. As the planet received its strongest irradiation (828 times larger than the flux received at apastron) its maximum 8-μm brightness temperature increased from 800 K to 1,500 K over a six-hour period. We also detected a secondary eclipse for the planet, which implies an orbital inclination of i ≈ 90°, fixes the planetary mass at four times the mass of Jupiter, and constrains the planet’s tidal luminosity. Our measurement of the global heating rate indicates that the radiative time constant at the planet’s 8-μm photosphere is 4.5 h, in comparison with 3–5 days in Earth’s stratosphere7.

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Figure 1: Orbital geometry of the HD 80606b system.
Figure 2: The light curve of a planet undergoing a close approach to a star.


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We thank P. Bodenheimer, D. Charbonneau, J. Fortney, N. Iro and H. Knutson for discussions. This work is based on observations made with the Spitzer Space Telescope, which is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), California Institute of Technology (Caltech), under contract to NASA. Support for this work was provided by NASA through an award issued by JPL/Caltech.

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Correspondence to Gregory Laughlin.

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Laughlin, G., Deming, D., Langton, J. et al. Rapid heating of the atmosphere of an extrasolar planet. Nature 457, 562–564 (2009).

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