Astronomers first discovered a cloud-free, Jupiter-like planet

Artist depiction of WASP-62B, first found a planet like Jupiter without clouds or in a foggy environment. The illustration is taken from the point of view of an observer located near the planet. Sincerely: M. Weiss / Center for Astrophysics | Harvard and Smithsonian

Astronomers at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard and the Smithsonian have previously detected a planet like Jupiter without clouds or in misty environments. The findings were published this month Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Named WASP-62b, the gas giant was first discovered in 2012 through the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) South Survey. However, its environment was not closely studied until now.

“For my thesis, I’m working on the characterization of exoplanet,” says Munjaza Alam, a graduate student at the Center for Astrophysics. “I have taken the discovered planets and I follow them to mark their atmosphere.”

Known as “hot Jupiter”, WASP-62b is 575 light years away and about half the mass of Jupiter in our solar system. However, unlike our Jupiter, which takes about 12 years to revolve around the Sun, WASP-62b completes a detour around its star in just four and a half days. This proximity to the star makes it very hot, hence the name “hot Jupiter.”

Using the Hubble Space Telescope, Alam observes data using spectroscopy, studying electromagnetic radiation to help detect chemical elements. Alam specifically monitored WASP-62b, as it swung three times in front of its host star, allowing observation of visible light, which could detect the presence of sodium and potassium in a planet’s atmosphere.

Alam says, “I admit that at first I was not very excited about this planet.” “But once I started looking at the data, I got excited.”

While there was no evidence of potassium, the presence of sodium was clearly evident. The team was able to see full sodium absorption lines or its complete fingerprint in their data. Clouds or mist in the atmosphere will obscure the full signature of sodium, Alam explains, and astronomers can usually only make small signs of their presence.

“This is a gun gun proof that we are seeing a clear environment,” she says.

Cloudless planets are extremely rare; According to recent research, astronomers estimate that less than 7 percent of exoplanets have a clear atmosphere. For example, the first and only other known exoplanet with a clear environment was discovered in 2018. Named WASP-96b, it is classified as a hot Saturn.

Astronomers believe that studying exoplanets with a cloudless atmosphere can lead to a better understanding of how they are formed. “Their rarity suggests that something else is going on or they are forming differently than most planets,” says Alam. The clear atmosphere also makes it easier to study the chemical composition of planets, which can help identify what a planet is made of.

With the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope later this year, the team hopes to get new opportunities to study and better understand the WASP-62B. Better technologies of binoculars, like higher resolution and better precision, should help them investigate environments to search for the presence of more elements, such as silicon.

Astronomers see unexpected molecules in the exoplanet atmosphere

more information:
Of Munaza. Alam and others, Evidence of a clear atmosphere for WASP-62b: only known gas giant transit in JWST continuous field of view, The Astrophysical Journal (2021). DOI: 10.3847 / 2041-8213 / abd18e

Provided by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Quotes: Astronomers discovered the first cloudless, Jupiter-like planet (2021, 22 January) from on 22 January 2021.

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