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Astronomers Find Blue Planet That Rains Glass

At about 63 light years away, one planet shares the Earth's blue coloring, researchers found.

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Researchers found that one of the closest planets to our solar system also shares the Earth's blue coloring, according to recent observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

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But the mutual blue hue is about all the two planets have in common. This planet, HD 189733b, is about 63 light years away from Earth, and is about the same size as Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system. Its "turbulent alien world" has temperatures that approach 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime, roaring winds of up to 4,500 mph and glass that rains sideways, according to a NASA statement.

The planet is among a class called "hot Jupiters," which orbit very close to their parent stars. Astronomers first discovered the planet in 2005, but have only recently been able to use the telescope to determine its color. Their findings are detailed in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"It's very different from the planets in our solar system," said lead researcher Tom Evans, of the University of Oxford, in a statement.

Because HD 189733b orbits so close to its parent star – about 2.9 million miles – it is locked gravitationally. That means one side of the planet is always in the dark. Because of that proximity, the planet reaches extremely high temperatures and is "bombarded with massive amounts of radiation," Evans said in the statement.

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Mercury is the closest planet in the Earth's solar system to the sun, at about 29 million miles away, CNN reports.

The group of researchers used the telescope's imaging spectrograph to measure the changes in the color of light the planet emanated as it passed behind the star.

"We saw the light becoming less bright in the blue but not in the green or red," said University of Exeter researcher Frederic Pont, in a statement. "Light was missing in the blue but not in the red when it was hidden. This means that the object that disappeared was blue."

The team of researchers believes that knowing the color of the planet may lead to new discoveries about its chemical composition and cloud structure.

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But unlike the Earth, which gets its color from the reflection of large bodies of water, this planet's coloring comes from a "hazy, blow-torched atmosphere" and bits of glass that rain down in the fierce winds across the planet. These shards are formed by particles that condense in heat and have a tendency to scatter blue light more than red light, according to the report.

Determining the cloud composition of this planet could shed light on information about the entire class of hot Jupiters, NASA said, because clouds "often play key roles in planetary atmospheres."

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