A new study reveals that an exoplanet hosts strange sand clouds high in its atmosphere.
While the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST or Webb) may spend a lot of its time observing the furthest reaches of the early universe when galaxies were just starting to form, and it also spends a lot of its time focusing on objects much closer to home – such as a planet’s atmosphere. Exoplanets In our galactic neighborhood.
A team of European astronomers used observations from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to detail the atmospheric composition of a nearby “thin” exoplanet, called WASP-107b. The researchers found water vapor, sulfur dioxide, and even clouds of silicate sand present within the exoplanet’s dynamic atmosphere. The new study may also have implications for our understanding of the chemistry of distant planets.
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Exoplanet WASP-107B It is one of the least dense planets known to astronomers, and is sometimes compared to… Comet. . The planet is roughly the same size as Jupiter, but has only 12% of its mass. WASP-107b is located approximately 200 light-years away from us LandIt takes only six days to orbit its parent star, which is slightly cooler and less massive than our Sun.
The planet’s low density, or villi, allowed astronomers to look 50 times deeper into the planet’s atmosphere than observations achieved for denser planets, such as Jupiter.
The initial discovery of sulfur dioxide (the smell emitted when a match is lit) surprised astronomers. This is because WASP-107b’s host star emits a relatively small fraction of high-energy light photons, due to the planet being smaller and cooler. However, the planet’s low density means that these photons can penetrate deep into WASP-107b’s atmosphere, causing chemical reactions that produce sulfur dioxide.
Aside from sulfur dioxide, astronomers have also observed high-altitude clouds composed of fine silicate particles, which are essentially fine-grained sand.
Researchers assume that sand clouds form in a similar way to water vapor and clouds on Earth, only with sand droplets. As sandy raindrops condense and fall, they encounter superheated layers inside the planet, where they turn into silicate vapor and move back up where they condense again to form clouds again.
“The James Webb Space Telescope is revolutionizing the characterization of exoplanets, providing unprecedented insights at remarkable speed,” said lead author Leanne Dessen of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. In a press release.
He added: “The discovery of clouds of sand, water, and sulfur dioxide on this thin exoplanet is a pivotal achievement. It reshapes our understanding of planetary formation and evolution, and sheds new light on our solar system.”
The observations were taken using JWST’s mid-infrared instrument (MIRI), a spectrometer that can probe planetary atmospheres at mid-infrared or heat-seeking wavelengths. It was the paper Published in the magazine nature On Wednesday (November 15).
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