The Spitzer Space Telescope website will be down on Tuesday July 29th from 9am PST to 10am PST for server maintenance. Thank you for your patience.

Download Video

Video Information

Subscribe to Series

05.09.07

Mapping Exotic Worlds

This animation shows the first-ever map of the surface of an exoplanet, or a planet beyond our solar system. The map, which shows temperature variations across the cloudy tops of a gas giant called HD 189733b, is made up of infrared data taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Everything else shown, for example the star and the lines, are artistic illustrations.

The movie begins by showing a two-dimensional view of the map. Hotter temperatures are represented in brighter colors. The map is then shown over the three-dimensional surface of the planet, and the movie spins around, revealing the planet's star. A line projecting from the star to the planet highlights where the planet is directly hit by starlight -- a point known as "high noon."

HD 189733b is what is known as a hot-Jupiter planet. These sizzling, gas planets practically hug their stars, orbiting at distances that are much closer than Mercury is to our sun. They whip around their stars quickly; for example, HD 189733b completes one orbit in just 2.2 days. Hot Jupiters are also thought to be tidally locked to their stars, just as our moon is to Earth. This means that one side of a hot Jupiter always faces its star.

As predicted, the map reveals that HD 189733b has a warm spot on its "sunlit" side, which is always pointed toward the star. But the map also shows that this spot is offset from the high-noon point by 30 degrees. According to scientists, ferocious winds traveling up to 6,000 miles per hour (nearly 9,700 kilometers per hour) are probably pushing the hot spot to the east.

In addition to the warm spot, the map tells astronomers that temperatures on HD 189733b are fairly even all around. While the dark side is about 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit (650 degrees Celsius), the sunlit side is just a bit hotter at about 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit (930 degrees Celsius). This mild temperature variation is more evidence for strong winds, since winds would help spread the heat from the hot, sunlit side over to the dark side.


These data were collected by Spitzer's infrared array camera as the planet, a so-called transiting planet, passed in front of its star, then swung around and disappeared behind it. By observing the planet for half of its 2.2-day long orbit, Spitzer was able to measure the infrared light, or heat, coming from its entire surface. The infrared measurements, about a quarter of a million individual data points, were then assembled by scientists into pole-to-pole strips, and ultimately into the complete map shown here.

Browse Videos in Science Animations

2040100 per page

Details or Icons

Page-nav-left Page 3 of 4 Page-nav-right

Go to page

04.20.05

Band of Rubble

This artist's animation illustrates a massive asteroid belt in orbit around a star the same age and size as our Sun. ...

Watch now

04.20.05

Sunset on an Alien World

This artist's animation illustrates what the night sky might look like from a hypothetical alien planet in a star sys...

Watch now

03.22.05

Distant Planet Flaunts its Light

This artist's animation shows a close-up view of a distant giant planet passing behind its star as a regular part of ...

Watch now

03.22.05

How to Measure a Planetary Eclipse

This artist's animation shows a close-up view of a distant giant planet passing behind its star as a regular part of ...

Watch now

03.22.05

A Planet in a Different Light

This artist's animation shows first what a fiery hot star and its close-knit planetary companion might look like clos...

Watch now

03.01.05

Invisible Galaxies Come to Life

This artist's animation demonstrates that an invisible galaxy shrouded in dust can become glaringly bright when viewe...

Watch now

02.11.05

Spitzer's Delicate Ring Flower

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope finds a delicate flower in the Ring Nebula, as shown in this animation. The outer shel...

Watch now

02.07.05

Birth of an Unusual Planetary System

This artist's animation shows a brown dwarf surrounded by a swirling disk of planet-building dust. NASA's Spitzer Spa...

Watch now

01.12.05

Trifid's Shifting Sides

This movie shifts from the well-known visible-light picture of the glowing Trifid Nebula to infrared views from NASA'...

Watch now

12.09.04

The Evolution of a Planet-Forming Disk

This animation shows the evolution of a planet-forming disk around a star. Initially, the young disk is bright and th...

Watch now

12.09.04

A Distant Solar System

This animation portrays an artist's concept of a distant hypothetical solar system, about the same age as our own. It...

Watch now

11.09.04

Icy Dawn of a Newborn Star

In this animation, we observe what a young star with a circumstellar disc would look like when viewed from different ...

Watch now

10.18.04

Swirling Rings of Dust

This animation depicts colliding rocky bodies in an early planetary system. Such collisions form the basis of the pla...

Watch now

10.18.04

When Worlds Collide

This animation illustrates a massive collision between rocky, embryonic planets as big as mountain ranges. Such colli...

Watch now

10.12.04

Galactic Fossil Revealed in Infrared Light

This animation demonstrates the power of infrared light to see what visible light cannot -- a newfound bundle of star...

Watch now

10.07.04

Visible-Infrared Whirlpool

This animation transitions from the more familiar visible light image of the "Whirlpool Galaxy" to the dramatic new v...

Watch now

10.06.04

Supernova Explosion

This animation of a supernova explosion demonstrates what happens when a massive star explodes and creates a shell of...

Watch now

10.06.04

Kepler's Supernova Remnant - Zoom-In

This "zoom" starts in the Scorpius constellation and pushes through deeper and narrower telescopic fields to at last ...

Watch now

10.06.04

Kepler's Supernova Remnant - Composite Image

The composite view of the supernova splits into its three components: blue-green for Chandra, yellow for Hubble, and ...

Watch now

08.09.04

Spitzer Discovers Hidden Ring

This animation transitions from a visible light image of the planetary nebula called NGC 246 to Spitzer's new infrare...

Watch now