They detect water on an exoplanet 179 light-years from Earth | Technology and Science | Science


Using state-of-the-art technology, a team of astronomers from the Keck Observatory detected water in the atmosphere of an exoplanet 179 light years from ours. It is about HR 8799c, which is in the solar system that revolves around the star HR 8799.

In 2008, scientists announced that, using the Keck and Gemini telescopes, they directly observed three exoplanets around the star mentioned: HR 8799b, c and d. So in 2010, they reported the discovery of a fourth planet, HR 8799 and.

Now the study presented is based on data obtained in 2008. The new observations with direct images are from HR 8779 c, a young giant gas planet of approximately seven times the mass of Jupiter, the colossus of our solar system, which takes 200 years in orbit of its star.

The data obtained on this occasion, according to the authors, would confirm the presence of water in the atmosphere and also the absence of methane in the same.

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To reach this conclusion, the researchers used combination of two Keck telescope technologies. The first is adaptive optics, which neutralizes the diffuse effects of Earth's atmosphere. The second is a Keck 2 telescope spectrometer called the Echelle Near Infrared Cryogenic Spectrograph (NIRSPEC), a high resolution spectrometer that works with infrared light.

According to Dimitri Mawet, a Caltech professor and co-author of the study, he explained:

"That kind of technology is exactly what we want to use in the future to look for signs of life on an Earth-like planet. We're not there yet, but we're moving forward."

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The new findings were published in the journal Newspapers. The lead author is Ji Wang, a former postdoctoral fellow at Caltech and now an assistant professor at Ohio State University.

So far, astronomers have photographed directly more than a dozen exoplanets. The HR 8799 system is the first multi-planetary system from which the images were obtained directly. But this is only the first step of this study.

Once taken, the images can be analyzed for the chemical composition in their atmospheres. This is where spectroscopy comes in. In this case, NIRSPEC's refined skills were critical.

NIRSPEC is an instrument that operates in the infrared L band. It is a type of infrared light with a wavelength of approximately 3.5 micrometers and a region of the spectrum with large detailed chemical footprints.

"The L-band has been neglected previously because the sky is brighter at this wavelength, if you were an alien with eyes in tune with the L-band, you would see an extremely bright sky, it is difficult to see exoplanets through this veil," explains Mawet .

Combining the band with adaptive optics, they were able to make the most accurate measurements of the planet, confirming the presence of water and the absence of methane.

With information from Universe Today and Busness Insider


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