The telescope measures oxygen and carbon in the atmosphere of exoplanet WASP-77Ab

Image: Illustration of “Hot Jupiter”. credit: NASA

WASP-77Ab, ‘Hot Jupiter’ at 340 light-years

The number of discovered exoplanets is now 4,538. The US space agency NASA uses a strict criterion for this: at least two different methods must give a positive result. Among them is WASP-77Ab, which is located 340 light-years away. With a mass of 1.76 times that of Jupiter and a temperature of more than 1,000 degrees Celsius, this exoplanet belongs to the category of “hot Jupiters”.

This type of object is not only large and heavy, but also close to the parent star. They are relatively easy to spot: on the one hand, their gravity is strong enough to move the star, and on the other hand, they orbit around them quickly, and their size blocks a large portion of the starlight each time they slide between the telescope and the star.

Atmosphere composition

With the list of exoplanets growing exponentially, researchers are ready to take the next step: find out if exoplanets have atmospheres and, if so, what their chemical makeup looks like. To this end, Michael Lane is associated with School of Earth and Space Exploration From the University of Arizona, about the same.

Hot planets are the kind of exoplanet the line is watching: “With their size and temperature, they are excellent laboratories for measuring gases in the atmosphere and testing our theories about planet formation.”

Build Team Line Southern Gemini on the WASP-77Ab. This ground-based telescope with a diameter of 8.1 m is located in the Andes Mountains in Chile. constitutes the southern component of Gemini ObservatoryWhere also a twin brother North Gemini part of Hawaii. by Southern Gemini Equip with a spectrometer, and Immersion granulator infrared spectrometer (IGRINS), Line and colleagues were able to measure the ratio of gases such as oxygen and carbon to hydrogen.


But wouldn’t it be better to do this kind of research with a space telescope? At the moment, astronomers mainly rely on Hubble Space Telescope (HST). However, the combination of South Gemini and IGINS produces much clearer HST measurements. Furthermore, HST cannot detect carbon, while this element plays an important role in Line’s research question.

It has to do with how hot Jupiters occur near the parent star. Near the star, a protoplanetary disk of dust and gas – from which planets form – is expected to contain too little material to form massive planets. Therefore, it is believed that hot Jupiters form far from the star. So hot Jupiters must have traveled to the star over time. From the ratio of carbon to oxygen, astronomers can learn more about the exact conditions for this migration movement.

In addition, this research indicates a method for detecting biometric fingerprints in the atmospheres of exoplanets. Again line: “ If we could do this with our current technology, what wouldn’t it do with telescopes expected soon like Giant Magellan Telescope? It is quite possible that by the end of 2020, we will discover the possible traces of life in the atmospheres of Earth-like exoplanets using this method.

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