Hubble Reveals Most Complete Picture Ever of an Alien Planet's Atmosphere

05 Marcha, 2018, 09:19 | Author: Enrique Watson
  • Hubble Reveals Most Complete Picture Ever of an Alien Planet's Atmosphere

(Click to enlarge) Using Hubble and Spitzer, astronomers analyzed the atmosphere of the "hot Saturn" exoplanet WASP-39b, and they captured the most complete spectrum of an exoplanet's atmosphere possible with present-day technology. They found very odd nature of its atmosphere. As the WASP-39b migrated nearer to the star, it would've undergone an incredibly different and unique "journey" than what we would associate with our own solar system.

'We need to look outward so we can understand our own solar system, ' said lead investigator Hannah Wakeford of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, and the University of Exeter in Devon, UK.

Therefore the British-American team combined the capabilities of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope with those of other ground- and space-based telescopes for a detailed study of the exoplanet WASP-39b.

The team used the Hubble and Spitzer telescopes to get the most complete picture of the atmosphere recorded to date. The planet, designated WASP-39b, is about the same mass as Saturn, but has three times as much water, according to NASA.

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While searching for star systems that could harbor life in the universe, scientists have stumbled across a Saturn-sized planet with quite a lot of water in its atmosphere. Although it is called a "hot Saturn", WASP-39b is not known to have rings. Instead, it has a puffy atmosphere that is free of high-altitude clouds, allowing astronomers to peer down into its depths. Dubbed WASP-39b, this alien world's atmosphere is estimated to have water three times more than Saturn does, but it's so extremely hot that life can not thrive on its hot and bloated surface. Scientists at Nasa have just made that surprising discovery that this exoplanet has an enormous amount of water. Scientists also have discovered some planets which gave clues on the presence of water. This in turn suggests that the planet was bombarded by a lot of icy material which gathered in its atmosphere. "But exoplanets are showing us that planet formation is more complicated and more confusing than we thought it was. And that's fantastic!", adds Wakeford. Moreover, while Saturn, orbits the Sun once every 29 years (nearly 11,000 days), WASP-39b circles its star every four days. NASA published its findings on its website where it stated that the newly found planet is tidally locked to its parent star. On the "day" side of the planet the temperature reaches 776,7 degrees Celsius; the powerful winds carry the warmth and at night, making it nearly as hot.

"Hopefully this diversity we see in exoplanets will help us figure out all the different ways a planet can form and evolve", explains David Sing.

Researchers are hoping to see a more clear picture of WASP-39b's atmosphere with longer wavelength coverage of James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2019. By filtering the incoming light partly absorbed by the far-away planet into individual colors, scientists could dissect the composition of its atmosphere. Wakeford concludes: "By calculating the amount of carbon and oxygen in the atmosphere, we can learn even more about where and how this planet formed".

Image shows composite image of Elephant's Trunk Nebula, an elongated dark globule within the emission nebula IC 1396 in the constellation of Cepheus, one of the first images from the new Spitzer Space Telescope released by NASA on December 18, 2003.


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