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The poet Robert Frost wondered if Earth would wind up a world
of fire or ice.
Astronomers have discovered that a distant planet is both.
With one side always hot as lava and the other chilled possibly
below freezing, Upsilon Andromeda b is a giant gas planet that
orbits extremely close to Upsilon Andromeda, a star 40 lightyears
from our solar system in the constellation Andromeda.
"If you were moving across the planet from the night side to the
day side, the temperature jump would be equivalent to leaping
into a volcano," said study leader Brad Hansen of the University
of California, Los Angeles.
The new finding, detailed online in the journal Science, marks the
first time any kind of temperature variation has been seen across
the surface of a planet outside our solar system.
Using infrared data collected by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope,
the researchers calculated that temperatures on the sunlit side
of the Upsilon Andromeda b were between 2,550 to 3,000 degrees
Fahrenheit (1,400 to 1,650 degrees Celsius) but only minus 4 to
450 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 230 degrees Celsius) on the
Jupiter, in contrast, maintains an even temperature all around.