Mysterious "hot spot" on alien planet leaves scientists baffled

Have we discovered an alien colony? That's one sensationalistic but nevertheless awesome possible explanation for the strange "hot spot" discovered on exoplanet Upsilon Andromedae b, 44 light-years from Earth.

The planet is a "hot Jupiter," a gas giant with an extremely high temperature. According to Space.com:

The planet is about 70 percent as massive as Jupiter, and it whips around its star every 4.6 days or so, scientists said.

Crossfield and his team used NASA's infrared Spitzer Space Telescope to measure the total infrared light coming from the planet and its parent star over five days in February 2009.

The Spitzer telescope cannot see the planet directly, but it can detect light variations that arise as the hot side of the planet comes into Earth's field of view. The hottest part of the planet will give off the most infrared light.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the star-planet system should appear brightest when the planet is directly behind the star, thus showing Spitzer its full sun-facing side.

But the system was brightest when the planet was to the side of the star, with its side facing Earth.

Scientists aren't sure what would account for this bizarre brightness, though they have some theories. Supersonic winds might cause it, or some other aspect of hot Jupiter meteorology that we don't understand yet. I'm not sure why nobody has yet suggested that it's heat pollution from a massive alien colony. Seems like the most logical explanation.

via Live Science