Two Articles that caught my eye this week; glass rain and weather balloons

Good evening,

First of all I’d like to say “Thank you” and “Welcome” Wildcard Weather’s new followers. Don’t forget to also follow on Twitter @wildcardweather and e-mail me any question at

Two short bits of news from this week. The first I saw on BBC News’ Twitter feed under the title Glass rain may give planet blue hue. The true color of an extrasolar planet was measured for the first time: a beautiful azure that comes as the result of some pretty alien weather.

It may look beautiful, but this is no garden world.
It may look beautiful, but HD189733b is no garden world.

HD189733b, a gas giant 63 light years away, is a type of planet known as a “hot Jupiter”. It may be similar in size and composition to the gas giants in our solar system, but it is very close to its star and scorching hot. HD189733b has a surface temperature over 1000 C. And as if that wasn’t enough, the planet has silicate (glass) rain that whips around the planet in 7000 kph (4350 mph) winds!

How did they measure this?
The answer is albedo, something we’ve discussed before and a term that will return in a couple upcoming posts. Albedo is the amount of light a surface reflected. A surface of a particular color most effectively reflects light of that particular wavelength (the ocean reflects blue light better than red, grass reflects green light better than orange, etc, etc). For HD189733b, astronomers used the Hubble telescope to measure the light being emitted from that star system. They discovered that when the gas giant was behind it’s star, the levels of blue light dropped. The blue light that the planet reflects was being blocked.

“From this, we can gather that the planet is blue, because the signal remained constant at the other colors we measured.” -Tom Evans, University of Oxford

For the full article from July 11th, click here.

My second story comes from NSSL Briefings Online. The NSSL is NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory. The laboratory conducts important warning, radar, and forecast research and their findings help save lives. In a few weeks they will begin an experiment with the University of Florida, launching weather balloons into thunderstorms. I have to admit, this article jumped out to me because of you, the readers. Since the inception of Wildcard Weather, the more popular post has far and away been my post on Radiosondes (Weather balloons). If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you check it out and learn what radiosondes are.

The NSSL and U of F will begin launching weather balloons into thunderstorms to learn more about lightning.
The NSSL and U of F will begin launching weather balloons into thunderstorms to learn more about lightning.

The reason for this experiment is to study lightning. The scientists will release two types of radiosondes; one will measure electric fields and the other will measure the size and shape of water particles. The radiosondes will also measure temperature, pressure, dewpoint, and winds like your typical balloon. They hope to learn more about the small-scale physics and electrical structure of the storms. The NSSL chose Florida because thunderstorms in a tropical environment will have a different structure than those they might find around NSSL’s office in Norman, OK.

For this article click here.

Good night everybody, more posts coming soon.




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