As impressive lightning storms can be on Earth, nothing compares with their power on a distant planet from another solar system. The planet was cryptically named HAT-P-11b, after the name of the telescope used to find it.
When it was first detected, the radio waves indicating its presence were presumed to correspond to a curtain of lightning strikes. The density of the hits was 530 times higher than those occurring in a regular storm on Earth.
A recent study from Scotland University tried to explain what type of extraordinary storms may this distant planet have to endure, and why.
When the planet was discovered, scientists caught powerful radio signals leading to the location of the astronomical object. These signals were proved to be created by storms. They are by 99% stronger than any of the radio signals created by any storm on Earth.
Lightning is an electrical discharge taking place in a gas medium. The phenomenon creates light in the form of plasma, and sound.
On Saturn, the lightning strikes appear as superbolts, a hundred times brighter than the ones on Earth.
On Venus, the phenomenon has been studied for decades, yet no one knows for sure if the radio pulses recorded by the 70s and 80s spacecrafts are indeed produced by lightning storms.
Even if scientists found lightning storms on other planets from our solar system, this would be the first time electricity discharges are discovered on a planet revolving another star.
As the exoplanet is very close to the major star, scientists are unable to detect visible light coming from these storms. They hope that an infrared telescope may be a solution.
The plan for the future is to have the telescope search for hydrogen cyanide, which will be a by-product of these electrical discharges.
HAT-P-11b is a planet from outside our solar system that revolves around a star named HAT-P-11. It was first discovered in 2009 by French astronomers who were using an HAT telescope. HAT telescopes have successfully determined the existence of 29 extrasolar planets.
The HAT-P-11 solar system was also spotted by Kepler’s photometer. This space observatory was launched seven years ago by NASA, with the mission to explore planets that orbit other stars. Over its travels, Kepler discovered 1,013 exoplanets and 440 solar systems.
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