Friday September 21, 2018
Home Lead Story Astronomers H...

Astronomers Have Found a Cloud Free Planet Outside Our Solar System

Just like an individual's fingerprints are unique, atoms and molecules have a unique spectral characteristic that can be used to detect their presence in celestial objects.

0
//
54
Astronomers have found that a planet outside our solar system, which is similar to Saturn in mass and exceeds the size of Jupiter by 20 per cent, has an atmosphere free of clouds.
Astronomers during IAU meet, wikimedia commons
Republish
Reprint

Astronomers have found that a planet outside our solar system, which is similar to Saturn in mass and exceeds the size of Jupiter by 20 per cent, has an atmosphere free of clouds.

The hot gas giant, WASP-96b, periodically transits a Sun-like star 980 light years away in the southern constellation Phoenix.

Using the the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile, the team studied the atmosphere of WASP-96b when the planet passed in front of its host-star.

This enabled the team to measure the decrease of starlight caused by the planet and its atmosphere, and thereby determine the planet’s atmospheric composition.

“We’ve been looking at more than twenty exoplanet transit spectra. WASP-96b is the only exoplanet that appears to be entirely cloud-free and shows such a clear sodium signature, making the planet a benchmark for characterisation,” said lead author of the study Nikolay Nikolov from University of Exeter in Britain.

Just like an individual’s fingerprints are unique, atoms and molecules have a unique spectral characteristic that can be used to detect their presence in celestial objects.

The spectrum of WASP-96b shows the complete fingerprint of sodium, which can only be observed for an atmosphere free of clouds, according to the study published in the journal Nature.

The spectrum of WASP-96b shows the complete fingerprint of sodium, which can only be observed for an atmosphere free of clouds, according to the study published in the journal Nature.
Planets and solar system, Pixabay

It has long been predicted that sodium exists in the atmospheres of hot gas-giant exoplanets, and in a cloud-free atmosphere it would produce spectra that are similar in shape to the profile of a camping tent.

“Until now, sodium was revealed either as a very narrow peak or found to be completely missing. This is because the characteristic ‘tent-shaped’ profile can only be produced deep in the atmosphere of the planet and for most planet clouds appear to get in the way,” Nikolov added.

Clouds and hazes are known to exist in some of the hottest and coldest solar system planets and exoplanets.

Also Read: Microsoft Partners With China Based DJI, World’s Largest Drone Company

The presence or absence of clouds and their ability to block light plays an important role in the overall energy budget of planetary atmospheres.

“It is difficult to predict which of these hot atmospheres will have thick clouds. By seeing the full range of possible atmospheres, from very cloudy to nearly cloud-free like WASP-96b, we’ll gain a better understanding of what these clouds are made of,” explains study co-author Jonathan Fortney, Professor at University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), US. (IANS)

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2018 NewsGram

Next Story

Astronomers Discover New Planet Not Orbiting Any Star

The planet is thought to be 200 million years old and is 20 light-years from Earth

0
planet
This April 3, 2017 image made available by NASA shows the planet Jupiter. A newly discovered planet outside our solar system is 12 times the size of Jupiter. (VOA)

Astronomers have discovered a planet outside our solar system that is 12 times the size of Jupiter, striking not only for its size but also for the fact that it is not orbiting any star.

The so-called “rogue” planet does not revolve around a star, but instead rotates around the galactic center in interstellar space.

Astronomers say there have been only a few rogue planets discovered to date. They say even though finding such celestial objects are rare, there could be large amounts of such planets in the universe that have yet to be discovered.

The so-called "rogue" planet does not revolve around a star, but instead rotates around the galactic center in interstellar space.
The so-called “rogue” planet does not revolve around a star, but instead rotates around the galactic center in interstellar space. Pixabay

The recently discovered planetary mass was originally found in 2016 but was mistaken for a brown dwarf planet. According to new research published in the Astrophysical Journal, the object is now thought to be a planet in its own right, with an usually strong magnetic field.

Also Read: NASA Spacecraft Sends Back Close-Ups of Dwarf Planet Ceres

Astronomers say the magnetic field of the new planet, named SIMP J01365663+0933473, is more than 200 times stronger than Jupiter’s. They say its strong magnetic field likely led to its being detected by a large radio-telescope in New Mexico known as the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA).

The planet is thought to be 200 million years old and is 20 light-years from Earth. (VOA)