Partially Cloudy Skies on Kepler-7b (Artist Concept)
Kepler-7b (left), which is 1.5 times the radius of Jupiter (right), is the first exoplanet to have its clouds mapped. This artist's concept shows what those clouds might look like. The cloud map was produced using data from NASA's Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes.
The map shows that clouds cover the western side of the gaseous planet, leaving the east cloud-free. Researchers speculate the clouds are made up of minerals containing silicates.
Kepler-7b is one of the puffiest, or least dense, planets known. While it is 1.5 times the size of Jupiter is has only about half the mass.
NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., manages Kepler's ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. JPL managed the Kepler mission's development. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.
More information about exoplanets and NASA's planet-finding program is at http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov.