Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



EXO WORLDS
Hubble detects exoplanet with glowing water atmosphere
by Staff Writers
Exeter UK (SPX) Aug 03, 2017


WASP-121b, located approximately 900 light years from Earth, is a gas giant exoplanet commonly referred to as a 'hot Jupiter', although with a greater mass and radius than Jupiter, making it much puffier. The exoplanet orbits its host star every 1.3 days, and is around the closest distance it could be before the star's gravity would start ripping it apart.

Scientists have found the strongest evidence to date for a stratosphere on an enormous planet outside our solar system, with an atmosphere hot enough to boil iron.

An international team of researchers, led by the University of Exeter, made the new discovery by observing glowing water molecules in the atmosphere of the exoplanet WASP-121b with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

In order to study the gas giant's stratosphere - a layer of atmosphere where temperature increases with higher altitudes - scientists used spectroscopy to analyse how the planet's brightness changed at different wavelengths of light.

Water vapour in the planet's atmosphere, for example, behaves in predictable ways in response to different wavelengths of light, depending on the temperature of the water. At cooler temperatures, water vapour in the planet's upper atmosphere blocks light of specific wavelengths radiating from deeper layers towards space. But at higher temperatures, the water molecules in the upper atmosphere glow at these wavelengths instead.

The phenomenon is similar to what happens with fireworks, which get their colours from chemicals emitting light. When metallic substances are heated and vaporized, their electrons move into higher energy states. Depending on the material, these electrons will emit light at specific wavelengths as they lose energy: sodium produces orange-yellow and strontium produces red in this process, for example.

The water molecules in the atmosphere of WASP-121b similarly give off radiation as they lose energy, but it is in the form of infrared light, which the human eye is unable to detect.

The research is published in leading scientific journal Nature.

"Theoretical models have suggested that stratospheres may define a special class of ultra-hot exoplanets, with important implications for the atmospheric physics and chemistry," said Dr Tom Evans, lead author and research fellow at the University of Exeter. "When we pointed Hubble at WASP-121b, we saw glowing water molecules, implying that the planet has a strong stratosphere."

WASP-121b, located approximately 900 light years from Earth, is a gas giant exoplanet commonly referred to as a 'hot Jupiter', although with a greater mass and radius than Jupiter, making it much puffier. The exoplanet orbits its host star every 1.3 days, and is around the closest distance it could be before 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.

In Earth's stratosphere, ozone traps ultraviolet radiation from the sun, which raises the temperature of this layer of atmosphere. Other solar system bodies have stratospheres, too - methane is responsible for heating in the stratospheres of Jupiter and Saturn's moon Titan, for example. In solar system planets, the change in temperature within a stratosphere is typically less than 100 degrees Celsius. However, on WASP-121b, the temperature in the stratosphere rises by 1000 Celsius.

"We've measured a strong rise in the temperature of WASP-121b's atmosphere at higher altitudes, but we don't yet know what's causing this dramatic heating," says Nikolay Nikolov, co-author and research fellow at the University of Exeter. "We hope to address this mystery with upcoming observations at other wavelengths."

Vanadium oxide and titanium oxide gases are candidate heat sources, as they strongly absorb starlight at visible wavelengths, similar to ozone absorbing UV radiation. These compounds are expected to be present in only the hottest of hot Jupiters, such as WASP-121b, as high temperatures are required to keep them in the gaseous state.

Indeed, vanadium oxide and titanium oxide are commonly seen in brown dwarfs, 'failed stars' that have some commonalities with exoplanets.

Previous research spanning the past decade has indicated possible evidence for stratospheres on other exoplanets, but this is the first time that glowing water molecules have been detected, the clearest signal yet for an exoplanet stratosphere.

It is one of the first results to come out of a new observing program being carried out by an international team of scientists, led by Associate Professor David Sing at the University of Exeter and Dr. Mercedes Lopez-Morales at the Smithsonian Institution. The program has been awarded 800 hours to study and compare 20 different exoplanets, representing one of the largest time allocations for a single program in the entire 27 year history of Hubble.

"This new research is the smoking gun evidence scientists have been searching for when studying hot exoplanets. We have discovered this hot Jupiter has a stratosphere, a common feature seen in most of our solar system planets." says Professor David Sing, co-author and Associate Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Exeter.

"It's a truly exciting find as we're seeing dramatic differences planet-to-planet which is giving valuable clues in figuring out how planets behave under different conditions, and we're only just scratching the surface of all the new Hubble data."

NASA's forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope will be able to follow up on the atmospheres of planets like WASP-121b with higher sensitivity than any telescope currently in space.

"This super-hot exoplanet is going to be a benchmark for our atmospheric models, and will be a great observational target moving into the Webb era," said Hannah Wakeford, co-author and Research Fellow at the University of Exeter.

EXO WORLDS
An Earth-like atmosphere may not survive Proxima b's orbit
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Aug 01, 2017
Proxima b, an Earth-size planet right outside our solar system in the habitable zone of its star, may not be able to keep a grip on its atmosphere, leaving the surface exposed to harmful stellar radiation and reducing its potential for habitability. At only four light-years away, Proxima b is our closest known extra-solar neighbor. However, due to the fact that it hasn't been seen crossing ... read more

Related Links
University of Exeter
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth


Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

EXO WORLDS
ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli starts third mission on Space Station

Voyager spacecraft still in communication 40 years out into the void

NextSTEP Partners Develop Ground Prototypes to Expand our Knowledge of Deep Space Habitats

Three-man crew reaches International Space Station

EXO WORLDS
Iran in 'successful' test of satellite-launch rocket

India looks to more launches with new facility from 2018

Sea Launch to be modernized for Russia's Soyuz-5 carrier rocket

Navy completes testing fixes on electro-magnetic launch systems

EXO WORLDS
Eclipse Balloons to Study Effect of Mars-Like Environment on Life

Portals to new worlds: Martian exploration near the North Pole

Opportunity enters Automode during solar conjunction pause

For Moratorium on Sending Commands to Mars, Blame the Sun

EXO WORLDS
China develops sea launches to boost space commerce

Chinese satellite Zhongxing-9A enters preset orbit

Chinese Space Program: From Setback, to Manned Flights, to the Moon

Chinese Rocket Fizzles Out, Puts Other Launches on Hold

EXO WORLDS
Iridium Announces Third Iridium NEXT Launch Date

UK space companies to develop international partnerships

Airbus DS to expand cooperation with Russia

ASTROSCALE Raises a Total of $25 Million in Series C Led by Private Companies

EXO WORLDS
JV with Russia to build up to 50 satellite solid-state power amplifiers

NASA enhances online scientific tool used by hundreds Worldwide

Making polymer chemistry 'click'

ARCTEC receives contract for Air Force radar sites in Alaska

EXO WORLDS
Unexpected life found at bottom of High Arctic lakes

An Earth-like atmosphere may not survive Proxima b's orbit

A New Search for Extrasolar Planets from the Arecibo Observatory

Gulf of Mexico tube worm is one of the longest-living animals in the world

EXO WORLDS
New Horizons Video Soars over Pluto's Majestic Mountains and Icy Plains

Juno spots Jupiter's Great Red Spot

New evidence in support of the Planet Nine hypothesis

NASA's New Horizons Team Strikes Gold in Argentina




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News






The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement