Hubble Finds A Blue Planet Outside Of Our Solar System:
Hubble Finds A Blue Planet Outside Of Our Solar System
The planet currently known as HD 189733b is one of the closest planets astronomers have discovered outside of our own solar system – only 63 light years away. It was first discovered in 2005, when French astronomers observed it moving in front of its star. And now, astronomers observing the planet with the Hubble Space Telescope have learned something else about it – it’s blue.
Don’t get too excited, though – it’s not blue because it’s covered with water. HD 189733b is bigger than Jupiter and is so close to its star that it’s year is only 2.2 days. Its temperature gets as high as 2,000 degrees. On one side, anyway. Since it’s so close to its star (about 2 million miles away), the planet is tidally locked – meaning only one side of the planet faces the star, period.
In 2007, astronomers made a “thermal map” of HD 189773b and determined that the temperature difference between the light side and dark side of the planet might be as much as 500 degrees. That temperature difference causes enormously fast winds of up to 4500 miles per hour to appear in the planet’s atmosphere. By way of comparison, a category five hurricane has speeds of about 160 miles per hour.
That’s not the only crazy aspect of the weather on this planet. Scientists have also suggested that when it rains on this world, it rains glass.
The clue for that possbility lies in the planet’s blue color. It’s blue not because it’s reflecting water, like our planet, but because the atmosphere contains silicates. Those silicate particles can condense in the cloud to form those glass rains. Those silicate particles also scatter the light in such a way as to make the planet appear blue.
The U.S. Commerce Department has imposed new import fees on solar panels made in China, finding that the Chinese government is improperly giving subsidies to manufacturers of the panels there. The department said Tuesday it has found on a preliminary basis that Chinese solar panel makers have received government subsidies of 2.9 percent to 4.73 percent. Therefore the department said tariffs in the same proportions will be charged on Chinese panels imported into the U.S., depending on which company makes them. The tariff amounts are considered small, but the decision could ratchet up trade tensions between the U.S. and China. Several U.S. solar panel makers had asked the government to impose steep tariffs on Chinese imports. They are struggling against stiff competition from China as well as weakening demand in Europe and other key markets, just as President Barack Obama is working to promote renewable energy. “Today’s announcement affirms what U.S. manufacturers have long known: Chinese manufacturers have received unfair … subsidies,” Steve Ostrenga, CEO of Helios Solar Works in Milwaukee, Wis., said in a statement. The company is a member of a group called the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing. On the other side, some U.S. companies argue that low-priced Chinese imports have helped consumers and promote rapid growth of the industry. The new tariffs are low, making the Commerce Department decision “a relatively positive outcome for the U.S. solar industry and its 100,000 employees,” said Jigar Shah, president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy. “However, tariffs large or small will hurt American jobs and prolong our world’s reliance on fossil fuels. Fortunately, this decision will not significantly raise solar prices in the United States.” Members of CASE include California-based SunEdison, Recurrent Energy, SolarCity and Westinghouse Solar, as well as China-based Suntech Power Holdings Co. Commerce said it was putting off until May 17 a decision on whether Chinese companies are dumping the solar panels on world markets, selling them below cost. Trade tensions with China are especially sensitive at a time when the U.S. and other Western economies want to boost technology exports to revive economic growth and reduce high unemployment. The U.S. and China are two of the world’s biggest markets for solar, wind and other renewable energy technology. Both governments are promoting their own suppliers in hopes of generating higher-paid technology jobs. The U.S. manufacturers’ complaints have been amplified by the controversy surrounding Solyndra Inc. a California-based solar panel maker that filed for bankruptcy protection after winning a $500 million federal loan from the Obama administration. Solyndra’s failure embarrassed the administration and prompted a lengthy review by congressional Republicans who are critical of Obama’s green energy policies. Solyndra has cited Chinese competition as a key reason for its failure. U.S. energy officials say China spent more than $30 billion last year to subsidize its solar industry. Obama said in November that China has “questionable competitive practices” in clean energy and that his administration has fought “these kinds of dumping activities.” The administration will act to enforce trade laws where appropriate, Obama said. SolarWorld Industries America Inc., the largest U.S. maker of silicon solar cells and panels and a subsidiary of Germany-based SolarWorld, has led the U.S. manufacturers’ complaints. China announced its own probe in November, saying it will investigate whether U.S. support for renewable energy companies improperly hurts foreign suppliers.
What appears to be an array of metal flower petals is not an art installation but part of a cutting-edge solar-power system meant to address the critical power shortage Japan now faces in the wake of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
The disaster, which triggered a crippling nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, reignited worldwide debate about the safety of nuclear power and forced Japan to reevaluate its energy strategy. Of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors, 52 have been shut down for maintenance; the remaining two are set to go offline this spring. The reactors are likely to remain inoperative while Japan’s central and local governments assess which (if any) of them can be restarted, leaving the country to make up for a 30-percent loss in power generation. Rising electricity prices and limited supply threaten to hamper the recovery for manufacturers. So it makes sense that Solar Techno Park, the country’s first solar-power research facility, is operated not by the government but by a unit of the Tokyo-based JFE, the world’s fifth-largest steelmaker. Given the energy-intensive nature of steel production, reliable power will be key to the future of Japan’s steel industry. The facility, which opened in October last year, is developing advanced technology in solar light and thermal power generation that it aims to apply both in Japan and overseas. Located along the industrial coast of the port city of Yokohama, the Solar Techno Park aims to achieve a combined output capacity of 40 to 60 kilowatts this spring. The facility’s most notable apparatus is the HyperHelios (seen here), a photovoltaic system consisting of rows of heliostats with mirrors that follow the sun and a receiving tower. Two types of solar thermal power systems are also being developed in the park.