Boundary Matter Discovered On Twilight Zone Planet

Boundary Matter Discovered On Twilight Zone Planet
Boundary Matter Discovered On Twilight Zone Planet

Video: Boundary Matter Discovered On Twilight Zone Planet

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Astronomers from the Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON) and the University of Groningen have found evidence on exoplanet WASP-31b for the presence of chromium hydride, a boundary substance balancing on the verge of liquid and gaseous states.

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The study is published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics and is briefly reported on the SRON website. The discovery was made by a team led by Marrick Braam.

Evidence for the presence of chromium hydride (CrH) in the atmosphere of exoplanet WASP-31b was found when analyzing data obtained using the Hubble Space Telescope.

The exoplanet WASP-31b is the so-called hot Jupiter, whose surface temperature is about 1200 degrees Celsius. The object is located in the twilight zone, between day and night, - this is the place through the atmosphere of which the light of the stars travels to the Earth.

The researchers found that this happens at the temperature and pressure at which chromium hydride balances on the verge of transition from a liquid to a gaseous state. Similar conditions exist on Earth. As a simple example, scientists cite rain clouds.

"Chromium hydride can play an important role in shaping the weather on this planet, with clouds and rain," says Braham. "Incidentally, this is the first time that chromium hydride has been detected on hot Jupiter at the correct pressure and temperature. But it should be added that we found chromium hydride only with the Hubble Space Telescope. We did not see it in the VLT ground telescope data. So we use the term "evidence" instead of "evidence."

However, the discovery of chromium hydride on a hot exoplanet could shed new light on the evolution of such objects. It is believed that one of the properties that make the planet habitable is the presence of appropriate weather on it.

Unfortunately, exoplanets are too far from Earth, and it is extremely difficult to conduct direct observations of them. Therefore, astronomers have to conduct a spectral analysis of the atmosphere of each object in search of substances, the presence of which may indicate the possible existence of weather on a particular planet.

Such studies are reminiscent of fingerprint analysis. However, at present, this type of research is used only for giant planets close to their stars. These planets are too hot for life to exist. But they give scientists an idea of ​​how potential weather systems might "work" on other planets.

"Hot Jupiters, including WASP-31b, always face their parent star with the same side," says study co-author Michel Min. "Therefore, in further research, we expect to see that on the day side chromium hydride will be in gaseous form. and at night - in liquid. According to theoretical models, a large temperature difference should create a powerful wind there. We would like to confirm this assumption by observations."

By the way, for further observations, the team plans to use data from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). It will be the successor to the Hubble Telescope, which is scheduled to launch this year.

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