The discovery of the extraordinary exoplanet LTT 9779b was announced a month ago, only 260 light-years away, and was immediately identified as an excellent candidate to continue studying its exotic atmosphere.
The LTT 9779b is slightly larger than Neptune and orbits a Sun-like star. However, it appears to be very close to its star, as the planet rotates once every 19 hours; Despite the scorching heat that must be exposed during this proximity, the LTT 9779b still has great atmosphere.
The infrared observations collected by the now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope included the planet’s host star, and astronomers have now analyzed this data and published their findings in two studies.
In the first paper, a team led by astronomer Ian Crossfield of the University of Kansas described the LTT 9779b temperature profile.
In the second paper, a team led by astronomer Diana Dragomir from the University of New Mexico characterizes the atmosphere of an exoplanet.
“For the first time, we measured the light coming from this planet that should not be there. This planet is exposed to radiation so much from its star that its temperature is over 3000 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Crossfield. [1650 درجة مئوية] And its atmosphere can completely evaporate. However, Spitzer’s observations show us its atmosphere via infrared light. ”
The research team studied the phase curve of an exoplanet in infrared light. Because thermal energy is emitted from infrared radiation, light of this wavelength can tell us the temperature of cosmic bodies several light-years away.
And orient the system in a way that the planet passes between us and the star, giving us wide-ranging views day and night. Thus, to calculate the temperature of the exoplanet, astronomers can use the general system’s variable light as the LTT 9779b orbits.
Interestingly, the hottest time of the day for the LTT 9779b is just a boom at noon, when its sun is directly in the sky.
That, in turn, allows some guesswork regarding the LTT 9779b’s atmosphere.
“The planet is much cooler than we expected, indicating that it reflects a lot of the falling starlight that it collides with, presumably due to daytime clouds,” said astronomer Nicholas Cowan, of the Institute for Exoplanet Research (iREx) and McGill University. The planet also has a great deal of heat besides its night side, but we think we understand it: It is likely that starlight absorbs high in the atmosphere, as energy is rapidly radiated into space. “
To further investigate LTT 9779b’s atmosphere, Dragomir and her colleagues focused on the secondary eclipse, when the planet passes behind the star. This results in a faint dimming of the system’s light more than it does when the planet passes in front of the star – known as a transit – but this dim dimming can help us understand the thermodynamic structure of a planet outside the solar system.
The researchers combined Spitzer’s secondary eclipse data with data from NASA’s TESS exoplanet space telescope. This allowed to obtain the LTT 9779b atmospheric emission spectrum; That is, the wavelengths of light are absorbed and amplified by the elements in it. And they found that the particles absorb some wavelengths – perhaps carbon monoxide.
This is to be expected for such a hot planet. Carbon monoxide has been detected in gas giants that are also orbiting their stars in very close proximity. The gas giants are more massive than hot Neptune, and they use their much higher gravity to hold their atmosphere. It was assumed that planets the size of Neptune should not be large enough to do so.
Finding carbon monoxide in a hot Neptune’s atmosphere could help us understand how this planet formed and why it maintains its atmosphere.
Research like this will give us an excellent toolkit and experience to explore the atmospheres of the worlds, which are potentially habitable as well.
Both papers have been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
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