Astronomers hope for cloudy skies James Webb Space Telescope (JWST or Webb) turned their attention to exoplanet atmospheres filled with evaporating rocks and crystals such as corundum and perovskites, which form gems on Earth.
hot Jupiters, they are gas giant planet They orbit so close to their star that they become so hot that rocky elements, minerals and metals can exist as vapors in their atmospheres, scorched by temperatures as high as 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,000 degrees Celsius).
“On Earth, a lot of these minerals are jewelry,” Tiffany Kataria, an exoplanet scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. statement“Geologists would study them as rocks on Earth, but they can form clouds on exoplanets. It’s crazy.”
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Such minerals have been detected in the atmosphere exoplanet forward. In 2017, astronomers used very large telescope The European Southern Observatory (VLT) in Chile Wasp-19b. Three years later, VLT observes iron vapour on hot Jupiter’s day Wasp-76b.
Many hot Jupiters are tidally locked, meaning they always show them the same face. Star, which causes their days to become unusually hot. In the case of WASP-76b, daytime temperatures reached 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,200 degrees Celsius). The planet’s nighttime temperature is “only” 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit (1,500 degrees Celsius), but that’s enough for iron to condense and precipitate as molten metal rain.
Previously, these elements and minerals have been detected as diffuse presence in exoplanet atmospheres. Now, JWST’s high-resolution vision will be able to directly distinguish these minerals into clouds, measuring their composition through spectroscopy.
“Clouds tell us a lot about the chemicals in the atmosphere,” Catalya said. “It becomes a question of how clouds form, and how the entire system forms and evolves.”
On WASP-19b, for example, titanium dioxide absorbs heat, causing a temperature inversion that makes the planet’s upper atmosphere hotter than its lower atmosphere, when the opposite is usually the case.
JWST has observed alien atmospheres, detected water clouds in exoplanet atmospheres Wasp-96b, scientists previously thought there were no clouds there at all. During its first year of observations, JWST is also investigating a large number of other exoplanet atmospheres.
Kataria herself has been involved in many projects, including using JWST’s Near Infrared Spectrometer (NIRSpec) in collaboration with MIT’s Thomas Mikal-Evans to characterize the atmosphere of ultra-hot Jupiters Wasp-121bwhich is 850 light-years from Earth and is the first Stratosphere.
Another project Kataria is collaborating on with JWST is the observation of hot Jupiter HD 80606b, located 290 light-years from Earth in a highly eccentric orbit around its star, bringing it close to 2.8 million miles (4.5 million kilometers) and as far as 81 miles (131 million kilometers). So HD 80606b experiences a “flash heat” as it approaches its star from 930 degrees Fahrenheit (500 degrees Celsius) to 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit (1,200 degrees Celsius) in a matter of hours. The effects on Earth’s weather are staggering, with computer models predicting storms and squally winds 15 times the speed of sound; Kataria hopes JWST will observe these events.
Finally, Kataria co-led a project with Brian Kilpatrick of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore to create a 3D “eclipse map” of exoplanet HD 189733b using JWST’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). Eclipse maps are made as the planet moves behind its star. By subtracting the faint signature of the planet’s light from the star’s light as the planet enters an eclipse, scientists can isolate the planet’s light and map the temperature of its atmosphere. Kataria and Kilpatrick hope the technique will allow them to determine the most accurate model of exoplanet atmospheric circulation to date.
The exoplanet, 64.5 light-years from Earth, was discovered in 2005 and has since become one of the best-studied hot Jupiters. Several other projects will also use the JWST to observe HD 189733b, including an in-depth investigation of the molecular composition of the planet’s atmosphere and to determine the composition of any clouds present, as well as efforts to search for evaporative mineral aerosols that form clouds in HD 189733b’s atmosphere.
The atmospheres of smaller rocky exoplanets will also be scrutinized by JWST.Researchers will measure the composition of the atmosphere 55 Cancer, a super-Earth eight times the mass of Earth; scientists also want to determine whether it’s hot enough to sink lava.seven more worlds TRAPPIST-1 The system will also be reviewed, and JWST will measure the atmospheres of each planet in the system.
Astronomers will pay particular attention to TRAPPIST-1e, the most Earth– Nearby planets. If it is habitable, evidence can be found in its atmosphere, including in its clouds.
“Clouds are an important feature on Earth that regulates temperature,” Catalya said. “They are an important consideration for Earth’s climate. It stands to reason that clouds could also be an important part of the atmospheres of habitable exoplanets. The more we understand how clouds form in general – just as they are on Earth and in other solar systems Planets – the more we understand how clouds evolve in more exotic environments.”
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