Exoplanets Intelligent Design

An exotic exoplanet we might want to view up close through a telescope but not visit

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exoplanet concept/Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

It seems to be a hot Jupiter:

WASP-189b is a planet outside our own solar system, located 322 light years from Earth. Extensive observations with the CHEOPS space telescope in 2020 revealed among other things that the planet is 20 times closer to its host star than Earth is to the Sun and has a daytime temperature of 3200 degrees Celsius. More recent investigations with the HARPS spectrograph at the La Silla Observatory in Chile now for the first time allowed the researchers to take a closer look at the atmosphere of this Jupiter-like planet.

“We measured the light coming from the planet’s host star and passing through the planet’s atmosphere. The gasses in its atmosphere absorb some of the starlight, similar to Ozone absorbing some of the sunlight in Earth’s atmosphere, and thereby leave their characteristic ‘fingerprint.” With the help of HARPS, we were able to identify the corresponding substances,” lead author of the study and doctoral student at Lund University, Bibiana Prinoth, explains. According to the researchers, the gasses that left their fingerprints in the atmosphere of WASP-189b included iron, chromium, vanadium, magnesium and manganese.

One particularly interesting substance the team found is a gas containing titanium: titanium oxide. While titanium oxide is very scarce on Earth, it could play an important role in the atmosphere of WASP-189b—similar to that of ozone in Earth’s atmosphere. “Titanium oxide absorbs short wave radiation, such as ultraviolet radiation. Its detection could therefore indicate a layer in the atmosphere of WASP-189b that interacts with the stellar irradiation similarly to how the Ozone layer does on Earth,” study co-author Kevin Heng, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Bern and a member of the NCCR PlanetS, explains.

University of Bern, “Extreme exoplanet has a complex and exotic atmosphere” at Phys.org (January 28, 2022)

The bright side of studying planets we’ll never be able to visit is that, in some cases, there wouldn’t be much point. It’s fascinating from a distance.

The paper is closed access.

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