Giant Exoplanet With Glowing Water Atmosphere Discovered

03 August, 2017, 21:26 | Author: Becky Perry
  • How Earth’s stratosphere works.    
   Image News & Views by Kevin Heng  Nature

Scientists have discovered the strongest evidence to date for a stratosphere on a planet outside our solar system, or exoplanet.

"When we pointed Hubble at WASP-121b, we saw glowing water molecules, implying that the planet has a strong stratosphere", Evans said, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature.

"We can now compare processes in exoplanet atmospheres with the same processes that happen under different sets of conditions in our own solar system", Marley said.

"The stratosphere of WASP-121b is so hot it can make water vapour glow, which is the basis for our analysis".

Water molecules interact with certain wavelengths of light in predictable ways.

Water molecules in the upper part of 121b's atmosphere block out infrared radiation coming from the planet and out into space, but at higher temperatures, they were found to be glowing instead, a sign of temperature difference which has been theorised as the presence of a stratosphere. Hot Jupiter's host star shines light into the exoplanet's atmosphere, which then emanates back out as infrared heat, except for some light wavelengths that are blocked by vapor. The latest study by astronomers is believed to be the best evidence so far, as it is the pioneering proof about the signature of hot water molecules which the researchers observed.

The mass of WASP-121b is around 1.2 times that Jupiter.

Astronomers have found hundreds - and they are scorching, with temperatures as great as 3,200°C (5,800°F) in the case of the exoplanet Wasp-33b, which is so close to its star that its year lasts just 29 Earth hours.

This exoplanet is so close to its star that if it got any closer, the star's gravity would start ripping it apart.This close proximity also means that the top of the atmosphere is heated to a blazing hot 2,500 degrees Celsius - the temperature at which iron exists in gas rather than solid form.

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The temperature of Earth's stratosphere is stratified, it gets warmers as the stratosphere extends away from Earth. As in the earth's atmosphere, in the planet's atmosphere from the constellation the Poop there is a layer of gas that absorbs radiation from the star. Other solar system bodies have stratospheres, too; methane is responsible for heating in the stratospheres of Jupiter and Saturn's moon Titan, for example.

The "sunscreen" on the distant gas giant known as WASP-121b was identified by british scientists in groundbreaking research.

In solar system planets, the change in temperature within a stratosphere is typically around 56 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit).

"The very existence of exoplanets have stratospher still could only guess; some suspicions on this score were given the previously obtained spectra of the same WASP-121b, but the clarity was not as long as astronomers had not sent her a wide-angle camera of Hubble WFC3", - stated in the publication. "We hope to address this mystery with upcoming observations at other wavelengths".

It has been theorised by researchers that the stratosphere of 121b could contain vanadium oxide and titanium oxide gases.

WASP-121b likely has a stratosphere.

They are commonly seen in brown dwarfs - "failed stars" similar to exoplanets.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of global cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency).


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