They found the heaviest element ever in the atmosphere of an exoplanet

WASP-76 b and WASP-121 b are gaseous exoplanets known as ultrafast Jupiters

Astronomers have discovered the heaviest element found in the atmosphere of an exoplanet: barium. They were surprised to discover barium at a high altitude in the atmospheres of the super-hot gas giants. WASP-76 by WASP-121btwo outer planetsThey are planets orbiting stars outside our solar system. This unexpected discovery raises questions about how this happened strange atmosphere. The discovery was made using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT).

“The puzzling and counter-intuitive part is: Why is there such a heavy element in the upper layers of the atmosphere of these planets?” says Tomas Azevedo Silva, a doctoral student at the University of Porto and the Institute of Astrophysics. IA) in Portugal. Silva led the study, which was general On October 13 in the magazine Astronomy and astrophysics.

WASP-76 b and WASP-121 b are not ordinary exoplanets. Both are known as superhot Jupiters, as they are comparable in size to Jupiter and have extremely high temperatures exceeding 1,000°C (1800°F). This is because they are close to the host stars, which also means that each star orbits It only takes a day or two. This gives these planets very peculiar properties. For example, astronomers doubt it Iron raining on WASP-76 b.

Being gassy and hot, its atmosphere is very expansive.
Being gassy and hot, its atmosphere is very expansive.

but still, The astronomers were surprised to find barium, It is 2.5 times heavier than iron, in the upper atmospheres of WASP-76 b and WASP-121 b. “Given the high gravity of the planets, we expect heavy elements such as barium to rapidly fall into the lower layers of the atmosphere,” explains co-author Olivier Demangeon, also a researcher at the University of Porto and IA. “This was somehow an ‘accidental’ discovery,” Azevedo Silva says. “We weren’t expecting or looking for barium in particular and had to verify that it did indeed come from the planet, because it had never been seen on any exoplanet before.”

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The fact that barium was detected in the atmosphere These two legislators are super hot It suggests that this class of planets may be even more exotic than previously thought. Although we sometimes see barium in our sky, like the bright green in fireworks, The question for scientists is what natural process could cause this heavy element to be at such high altitudes on these exoplanets. “At the moment, we’re not sure about the mechanisms,” Demanjohn explains.

The exoplanet WASP 39-b was studied by the James Webb Telescope
The exoplanet WASP 39-b was studied by the James Webb Telescope

In the study of the atmospheres of exoplanets, superheated Jupiters are very useful. As Demangeon explains: “Being gassy and hot, its atmosphere is very expansive and thus easier to observe and study than those from smaller or cooler planets.” Determining the composition of an exoplanet’s atmosphere requires highly specialized equipment. The team used the ESPRESSO instrument at ESO’s VLT in Chile to analyze starlight filtered through the atmospheres of WASP-76b. and WASP-121 b. This made it possible to clearly detect various elements in it, including barium.

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These new findings show that we’ve only scratched the surface of exoplanet mysteries. With future instruments such as the ArmazoNes High Resolution Dispersion Spectrometer (ANDES), which will operate on ESO’s upcoming Very Large Telescope (ELT), astronomers will be able to study the atmospheres of exoplanets large and small, including those rocks. planets. Similar to Earth, in greater depth and to gather more clues about the nature of these alien worlds.

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Lovell Loxley

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