Mapping the surface of an extrasolar planet light years away.

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Mapping the surface of an extrasolar planet light years away. From the paper’s abstract [pdf]:

We use archived Spitzer [Space Telescope] data of [the star] HD189733 … encompassing six transits, eight secondary eclipses, and a phase curve in a two-step analysis. The first step derives the planet-star system parameters. The second step investigates the structure found in eclipse scanning, using the previous planet-star system parameter derivation as Gaussian priors.

We find a 5-sigma deviation from the expected occultation ingress/egress shape for a uniform brightness disk, and demonstrate that this is dominated by large-scale brightness structure and not an occultation timing offset due to a non-zero eccentricity. Our analysis yields a 2D brightness temperature distribution showing a large-scale asymmetric hot spot whose finer structure is limited by the data quality and planet orbit geometry. [emphasis mine]


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