Earth is known as the ‘blue planet’ because of the vast oceans that cover two-thirds of its surface. When seen from space, our world looks like a pale blue dot. Back in 1990 a photograph of the Earth that was taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft when it was 6 billion km away! But now, for the first time ever, astronomers have uncovered the color of a planet orbiting a distant star—and it’s blue, too!
But that’s where the similarities between the two planets end. The new world, or the deep blue dot, is an enormous gas giant, similar in size to Jupiter, the largest planet in our Solar System. It orbits very close to its star, leading its atmosphere to reach scorching temperatures of over 1000°C. You might wonder how blue oceans can survive in this extreme environment. Well, unlike Earth, it isn’t water that gives this world its lush blue color. Its atmosphere is filled with something similar to glass particles, called ‘silicates’, which sparkle blue.
Astronomers believe it rains glass on this planet! And the glassy rain comes down in sideways torrents, blown by howling winds moving at 7000 km per hour! While the words ‘pale blue dot’ make us think of calm, tropical waters and light summer rain, this ‘deep blue dot’ is all sharp, raging storms and boiling heat.
- Exoplanet colour confirmed for first time: it’s blue, but not pale – and nothing like Earth (blogs.scientificamerican.com)
- Found: A Blue Planet That Rains Glass (science.time.com)