A blistering hot planet, outside our solar system, has been spotted by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and it has been revealed that it "snows" sunscreen on that planet. The newly discovered planet, dubbed Kepler-13Ab, is located at a distance of more than 1,730 light-years from Earth, said the study published in the Astronomical Journal.
As per the study, Kepler-13Ab circles its parent star within such a close proximity that it is tidally locked, which means one side of the planet always faces its host star and the other side remains in permanent darkness. With the sunscreen, or titanium oxide, precipitation only occurs on the permanent dark side of the planet, leaving the sizzling hot side without protection.
According to the astronomers, powerful winds of Keplar-13Ab carry the titanium oxide gas to the colder nighttime side where it gets condensed, turns into crystalline flakes, creates clouds and then precipitates as snow. The strong surface gravity of the planet, which is six times greater than that of Jupiter's, pulls the titanium oxide snow out of the upper layer of the atmosphere and traps it in the lower atmosphere, suggests the study.
Several years ago, scientists had predicted that this kind of precipitation may occur on extremely hot planets with powerful gravity and this new study now confirms it. "Presumably, this precipitation process is happening on most of the observed hot Jupiters, but those gas giants all have lower surface gravities than Kepler-13Ab," said lead researcher Thomas Beatty of Pennsylvania State University in the US.
"The titanium oxide snow doesn't fall far enough in those atmospheres, and then it gets swept back to the hotter dayside, revaporises, and returns to a gaseous state," Beatty added.