A gas giant in a distant solar system has something strange up its sleeve.
According to a new study published on January 22 in Nature Astronomy, a exoplanet known as CoRoT-2b has winds that blow in the opposite direction of what scientists have observed in other planets like it. Typically, exoplanets like CoRoT-2 — which are known as “hot Jupiters” — have winds that blow to the east. These objects are named such because they are gas giants similar Jupiter in our solar system, but “hot” because they orbit their planet much more closely than Jupiter does to our sun.
Using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, a team of astronomers found that CoRoT-2’s winds blow west — and no one knows why.
“We’ve previously studied nine other hot Jupiter, giant planets orbiting super close to their star. In every case, they have had winds blowing to the east, as theory would predict,” McGill University astronomer Nicolas Cowan, a co-author on the study, says in a statement. “But now, nature has thrown us a curveball. On this planet, the wind blows the wrong way. Since it’s often the exceptions that prove the rule, we are hoping that studying this planet will help us understand what makes hot Jupiters tick.”
Clearly, CoRoT-2b, located roughly 930 light-years from Earth, is a very big oddball. At this point, researchers don’t have an answer as to why its winds blow in the opposite direction, but they have some solid ideas.
For one thing, the planet’s atmosphere could be impacting its magnetic field, and vice versa. It’s also possible that the planet has an extremely slow orbit which might affect the directions of its winds, but until a next generation space telescope like James Webb launches, it’s anyone’s guess.
Hopefully, future study of this strange world — coupled with shiny new tech — will illuminate what’s really going on with these winds. For now it’s just a space oddity.