Researchers have found strong evidence of water on a young gas giant outside our solar system. The planet called HR…
Researchers have found strong evidence of water on a young gas giant outside our solar system.
The planet called HR 8799c has a mass of about 7 Jupiter masses and circles its host star every 200 years. Its atmospheric composition shows that the water is likely to become an important part of the planet. However, methane lacks. The results are derived from a new analysis of observations made by state-of-the-art instruments at the W. M. Keck Observatory at Maunakea, Hawaii.
Planet HR 8799c has been observed repeatedly, but the presence of water in the atmosphere has never been detected before. By combining the new data with a technique called adaptive optics, researchers removed the fading effect of the planet and created the most detailed study than its atmosphere. The technology has consequences for the search of life beyond the earth.
“This kind of technique is just what we want to use in the future to look for signs of life on a earthlike planet. We’re not there yet, but we’re marching forward.” Dimitri Mawet, a professor of astronomy at Caltech and a researcher at NASA JPL said in a statement.
Located about 1
29 light years from Earth HR 8799c and three of its followers were the only multiple planets. The system should be confirmed using the direct imaging technique. Taking direct pictures of planets that circle other stars is a daunting task, as the light from the host stars radiates the planets and makes them difficult to see.
When an image is obtained, astronomers can use instruments called spectrometers to break up the light of the planet and measure the atmospheric chemical fingerprints. So far, this strategy has been used to gain insight into the atmosphere of several great exoplanets that were previously impossible.
The ultimate goal is to look for chemicals in the atmosphere of earthlike planets that circulate in the star’s “habitable zone” – the distance within which their surface temperatures allow for floating water. Earth-like exoplanets are currently our best candidates for the worth of life.
Ji Wang’s leading author of the study says. “Right now, with Keck, we can already learn about the physics and dynamics of these giant exotic planets, which are nothing like our own solar system planets.”