Washington: A team of scientists using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has discovered an immense cloud of hydrogen escaping from a warm Neptune- sized exoplanet, thus boosting the the prospect of finding ocean-bearing exoplanets.
Such a phenomena not only helps explain the formation of hot and rocky ‘super-earths’, but also may potentially act as a signal for detecting extrasolar oceans, the study said.
“Escaping gas has been seen in the past for larger gas giant exoplanets, so it was a surprise that looking at a much smaller planet resulted in such a big and stunning comet-like display,” said study co-author David Sing, professor at University of Exeter in Britain.
With a mass approximately 23 times that of our Earth located 33 light years away, the exoplanet GJ436b rotates around its star in only three days and has an atmosphere which leaves behind a gigantic trail of hydrogen.
The scientists were able to see this hydrogen cloud’s shadow when it passes in front of the star.
“This cloud is very spectacular, though the evaporation rate does not threaten the planet right now.”
GJ436b resides very close to its star — less than two million miles — and whips around it in just 2.6 Earth days. In comparison, the Earth is 93 million miles from our sun and orbits it every 365.24 days.
The team’s results are presented in the journal Nature. (IANS)
Just over a month into its seven-year mission to touch the Sun, NASA Parker Solar Probe has beamed back the first-light data from each of its four instrument suites, the US space agency said.
On September 9, Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe’s (WISPR) — the only imager on the probe — door was opened, allowing the instrument to take the first images during its journey to the Sun.
WISPR with both its inner and outer telescope snapped a blue-toned, two-panel image of space with stars visible throughout.
While the Sun is not visible in the image, it showed Jupiter.
Launched on August 12, Parker Solar Probe, NASA historic small car-sized probe will journey steadily closer to the Sun, until it makes its closest approach at 3.8 million miles.
“All instruments returned data that not only serves for calibration, but also captures glimpses of what we expect them to measure near the Sun to solve the mysteries of the solar atmosphere, the corona,” said Nour Raouafi, the probe’s project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University in Laurel, Maryland.
While these early data are not yet examples of the key science observations that the probe is expected to transmit in December, it shows that each of its four instrument suites are working well.
The probe also sent data back from its three other instruments on board: ISoIS, FIELDS and SWEAP which are all dedicated to unravelling the mysteries of the Sun.
ISoIS’s (pronounced “ee-sis” and includes the symbol for the Sun in its acronym) two Energetic Particle Instruments — EPI-Lo and EPI-Hi — cover a range of energies for these activity-driven particles.
EPI-Lo’s initial data shows background cosmic rays, particles that were energised and came rocketing into our solar system from elsewhere in the galaxy.
Data from EPI-Hi shows detections of both hydrogen and helium particles from its lower-energy telescopes.
The FIELDS’ four electric field antennas on the front of the probe observed the signatures of a solar flare, while the SWEAP’s (Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons), three instruments caught glimpses of the solar wind.
The Parker Solar Probe’s first close approach to the Sun will be in November.
Over the next two months, it will fly towards Venus, performing its first Venus gravity assist in early October.
Throughout its mission, the probe will make six more Venus flybys and 24 total passes by the Sun.
The probe is named after Eugene Parker, a solar physicist, who in 1958 first predicted the existence of the solar wind, a stream of charged particles and magnetic fields that flow continuously from the Sun. (IANS)