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Magnetism disrupts winds on ‘hot Jupiter’ exoplanet

Simulations of HAT-P 7b’s magnetic field give clues to the world’s variable gusts

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7:00am, May 26, 2017
simulation of magnetic fields on HAT-P 7b

COLORED LINES  In this simulation of HAT-P 7b’s magnetic field lines, strong lines are shown in blue and magenta. Weaker lines are green and yellow. These magnetic field lines influence winds on the distant world, making them blow both east and west, a new study says. The stronger the lines, the wilder the winds.

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HAT-P 7b is a windy world. Stiff easterlies typically whip through the atmosphere of the distant exoplanet, but sometimes the powerful gales blow in surprisingly varied directions. Now, simulations of the planet’s magnetic field lines, illustrated here as a rainbow of scrawled marks, reveal that HAT-P 7b’s magnetic field influences the winds, even turning some into westerlies. The result, published May 15 in Nature Astronomy, could lead to a better understanding of the atmospheres of other exoplanets.

Known as a “hot Jupiter,” HAT-P 7b is a gas giant that orbits its star once every 2.2 Earth days. The exoplanet, located 1,043 light-years away, is also tidally locked: One side always faces toward its star while the other faces away. That orientation pushes temperatures to about 1,900° Celsius on the planet’s dayside compared with

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