April 24, 2024

Hubble detects water vapor in the atmosphere of a small exoplanet

Exoplanet water vapor concept art

Astronomers using Hubble have detected water vapor in the atmosphere of GJ 9827d, a small exoplanet, suggesting the presence of water-rich atmospheres on similar planets. This discovery marks a significant step in exploring the composition and evolution of exoplanetary atmospheres. credit: SciTechDaily.com

The steamy world could be a sampling of water-rich planets across our galaxy

The search for life in space goes hand in hand with the search for water on planets around other stars. Water is one of the most common molecules in the universe and all life on Earth needs it. Water works as a solvent, dissolving substances and allowing important chemical reactions in animal, plant and microbial cells. It is much better at this than other liquids.

Astronomers are intrigued to find evidence of water vapor on exoplanets. A recent target is the planet GJ 9827d, which may have a water-rich atmosphere around it. No larger than twice the diameter of Earth, the planet could be an example of potentially water-rich worlds elsewhere in our galaxy. But don’t plan to buy a property in GJ 9827d. The planet is as hot as Exoplanet GJ 9827d

This is an artist’s concept of the exoplanet GJ 9827d, the smallest exoplanet where water vapor has been detected in the atmosphere. The planet could be an example of potential planets with water-rich atmospheres elsewhere in our galaxy. Just about twice the diameter of Earth, the planet orbits the red dwarf star GJ 9827. Two of the system’s inner planets are to the left. The background stars are plotted as they would be seen with the naked eye, looking toward our Sun. The Sun is too faint to be seen. The blue star in the upper right is Regulus; the yellow star in the lower center is Denebola; and the blue star in the lower right is Spica. The constellation Leo is on the left and Virgo is on the right. Both constellations are distorted from our Earthly view 97 light years away. Credit: NASA, ESA, Leah Hustak (STScI), Ralf Crawford (STScI)

Hubble Space Telescope finds water vapor in the atmosphere of a small exoplanet

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have observed the smallest exoplanet where water vapor has been detected in the atmosphere. At only approximately twice the diameter of Earth, the planet GJ 9827d could be an example of potential planets with water-rich atmospheres elsewhere in our galaxy.

“This would be the first time that we can directly show, through atmospheric detection, that these planets with water-rich atmospheres can actually exist around other stars,” said team member Björn Benneke of the Trottier Institute for Exoplanet Research in Europe. University of Montreal. . “This is an important step toward determining the prevalence and diversity of atmospheres on rocky planets.”

“Water on such a small planet is a landmark discovery,” added co-principal investigator Laura Kreidberg of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany. “This is closer than ever to characterizing truly Earth-like worlds.”

Investigating the planet’s atmosphere

However, it is still too early to say whether Hubble spectroscopically measured a small amount of water vapor in a hydrogen-rich atmosphere or whether the planet’s atmosphere is mostly made up of water, left behind after a primitive hydrogen/helium atmosphere. have evaporated under stellar radiation. .

“Our observation program, led by principal investigator Ian Crossfield of the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, was designed specifically with the goal of not only detecting the molecules in the planet’s atmosphere, but also specifically looking for water vapor. Either outcome would be exciting, whether water vapor is dominant or just a small

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