Clouds of Rubies and Sapphires, A Thousand Light Years Away



Scientists believe the clouds of a planet in a far-off galaxy could be made of the same materials that make up precious jewels

A new study published by scientists at the University of Warwick reveals that planet HAT-P-7b, 1,040 light years from Earth, may have clouds made of rubies and sapphires. 

The study, published in Nature Astronomy, uses data from NASA’s Kepler mission, a space telescope that spent four years pointed at the planet.

Scientists believe the clouds are made of corundum, the same mineral that forms rubies and sapphires. “The clouds themselves would be visually stunning,” reads the statement from the researchers.

“Using the NASA Kepler satellite, we were able to study light reflected from HAT-P-7b’s atmosphere, finding that the atmosphere was changing over time,” said Dr. David Armstrong of Warwick’s Astrophysics Group in the statement. “HAT-P-7b is a tidally locked planet, with the same side always facing its star. We expect clouds to form on the cold nightside of the planet, but they would evaporate quickly on the hot dayside.”

The exoplanet—a planet that orbits a star outside of our solar system—is 16 times larger than Earth and orbits a star twice as large as the Sun. 

(Photo courtesy of University of Warwick)