The biggest discovery of cloudless exoplanet thanks to sodium

May 10, 2018 - By Kelly Oliver

The biggest discovery of cloudless exoplanet thanks to sodium

The biggest discovery of cloudless exoplanet thanks to sodium

Professor Nikolay Nikolov is from Exeter University in Britain. He and an international team of researchers, including Professor Jonathan J. Fortney from California University and Ernst de Moojis from Dublin University, has discovered cloudless atmosphere on exoplanet WASP-96b.

They detected this anomaly for exoplanets using Very Large Telescope 8.1 meter, from Europe’s Southern Observatory in Chile.

While exoplanet was passing by the host star of its own, they measured the affection of light from this star in an atmosphere and the planet. On its way, exoplanet creates a spectrum that can be compared to unique fingerprints. Usually, the light that planet releases are obscures by numerous clouds, so researchers can’t study anything from the Earth’ distance.

The statement was released on the 7th of May by Exeter University itself.

However, WASP-96b gave a very clear picture with the help of such a widespread chemical element as sodium. The ability to see the signature made it clear for Nikolov and Co. that there are no clouds in the atmosphere.

Researchers say it is the first time in history such cloudless exoplanet was found.

According to Nikolov, this planet will become “a benchmark for characterization” in their further research.

The planet is larger than Jupiter, the biggest planet in the solar system in 20 percent. It is situated in 980 light years away from Earth.

The planet has a resemblance to our Saturn. It is the giant with hot gas with 1 300 kelvins temperature.

“We’ve been looking at more than twenty exoplanet transit spectra. WASP-96b is the only exoplanet that appears to be entirely cloud-free and shows such a clear sodium signature, making the planet a benchmark for characterization,” says Nikolov, “This is because the characteristic ‘tent-shaped’ profile can only be produced deep in the atmosphere of the planet and for most planet clouds appear to get in the way.”

“WASP-96b will also provide us with a unique opportunity to determine the abundances of other molecules, such as water, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide with future observations,” co-author of research Mooji adds.

Their next plan to research this planet on Hubble and James Webb Space Telescope.

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