Astronomers have finally detected a telluric exoplanet with an atmosphere

Astronomers have finally detected a telluric exoplanet with an atmosphere
Astronomers have finally detected a telluric exoplanet with an atmosphere
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Astronomers have finally detected a telluric exoplanet with an atmosphere

Astronomers have searched for many years for telluric planets outside our solar system that have atmospheres – a characteristic considered essential for the possibility of hosting life. Well, it looks like they finally found one. However, this infernal planet – apparently with a surface made of molten rocks – does not offer any hope for the possibility of being habitable, informs Reuters and Agerpres.

Researchers announced Wednesday that this planet is a “super-Terra” — a terrestrial world significantly larger than our planet but smaller than Neptune — and that it orbits dangerously close to a star less bright and less massive than our Sun. , rapidly completing one orbit every 18 hours or so.

Infrared observations made by two instruments aboard the James Webb Space Telescope indicated the presence of a substantial—if inhospitable—atmosphere, likely fed continuously by gases released by a vast magma ocean.

“The atmosphere is probably rich in carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide, but it may also have other gases, such as water vapor and sulfur dioxide. Current observations cannot specify the exact composition of the atmosphere,” said Renyu Hu, a researcher in planetology at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and at Caltech, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature.

Also, the data obtained with the help of the James Webb space telescope did not clarify the thickness of the atmosphere. Renyu Hu said it could be as thick as Earth or even thicker than Venus, whose toxic atmosphere is the densest in our solar system.

That exoplanet, called 55 Cancri e or Janssen, is about 8.8 times more massive than Earth, with a diameter about twice that of our planet. It orbits its star at a distance 25 times smaller than the distance between Mercury and the Sun. As a result, the temperature at its surface is approximately 1,725 ​​degrees Celsius.

“Indeed, this is one of the hottest telluric exoplanets known,” said astrophysicist and study co-author Brice-Olivier Demory of the Center for Space and Habitability at the University of Bern in Switzerland, using the term for planets in outside our solar system. “There are probably better places for a vacation destination in our galaxy,” he added. The exoplanet most likely evolves in synchronous rotation, which means that it is always with the same side facing its star, just as the Moon is in relation to the Earth. The planet is located in our galaxy, the Milky Way, about 41 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Cancer. A light-year represents the distance traveled by light in a calendar year, i.e. 9.5 trillion kilometers. Four other planets, all gas giants, are known to orbit the same host star.

That star is gravitationally bound to another star in a binary system. The other star is a red dwarf, the smallest type of ordinary star. The distance between the two stars is 1,000 times greater than the distance between Earth and the Sun, and light takes six days to travel from one to the other.

After so much searching, the telluric exoplanet for which scientists finally found evidence of an atmosphere turned out to be one that probably shouldn’t even have an atmosphere. Being so close to its star, any atmosphere should be destroyed by solar radiation and solar winds. But gases dissolved in the vast lava ocean believed to cover the exoplanet’s surface could continue to be emitted by that magma and rebuild the atmosphere, Renyu Hu said.

“The planet cannot be habitable,” said the same researcher, because it is too hot to contain liquid water, considered a prerequisite for sustaining life.

All previously discovered exoplanets that have atmospheres are gas planets, not telluric planets. As the James Webb Space Telescope pushes the frontiers of exoplanet exploration, the discovery of a telluric planet with an atmosphere still represents progress.

On Earth, the atmosphere warms the planet, contains the oxygen that humans breathe, protects against solar radiation, and creates the pressure necessary for liquid water to remain on the planet’s surface.

“On Earth, the atmosphere is essential for life,” said Brice-Olivier Demory. “This result obtained with 55 Cnc e raises the hope that the James Webb telescope could perform similar investigations on planets that are much cooler than 55 Cnc e and that may have liquid water on their surface. But we are not there yet,” he he added.


The article is in Romanian

Tags: Astronomers finally detected telluric exoplanet atmosphere

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