June 10, 2023

Scientists Measure the Atmosphere of a Planet in Another Solar System 340 Light-Years Away

By measuring the Doppler shift showed in the best column of this figure, scientists can rebuild a worlds orbital velocity in time towards or away from Earth. The strength of the world signal as shown in the middle column, along the anticipated evident speed (navy rushed curve) of the planet as it orbits the star, contains information on the quantities of various gases in the atmosphere. Credit: P. Smith/M. Line/S. Selkirk/ASU.

For this study, Line and his team focused on planet “WASP-77Ab,” a kind of exoplanet called a “hot Jupiter” due to the fact that they resemble our planetary systems Jupiter, however with a temperature level upwards of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit..
They then focused on measuring the composition of its atmosphere to determine what elements exist, compared to the star it orbits..
” Because of their sizes and temperature levels, hot Jupiters are exceptional labs for determining atmospheric gases and testing our planet-formation theories,” Line said..
While we can not yet send out spacecraft to planets beyond our solar system, scientists can study the light from exoplanets with telescopes. The telescopes they utilize to observe this light can be either in area, like the Hubble Space Telescope, or from the ground, like the Gemini Observatory telescopes..
Line and his group had been thoroughly included in measuring the atmospheric structures of exoplanets utilizing Hubble, but obtaining these measurements was challenging. Not just exists steep competitors for telescope time, Hubbles instruments only measure water (or oxygen) and the group needed to likewise gather measurements of carbon monoxide gas (or carbon) as well..
This is where the group relied on the Gemini South telescope..
” We required to attempt something different to address our questions,” Line stated. “And our analysis of the abilities of Gemini South indicated that we might obtain ultra-precise climatic measurements.”.
Gemini South is an 8.1-meter size telescope situated on a mountain in the Chilean Andes called Cerro Pachón, where very dry air and negligible cloud cover make it a prime telescope location. It is operated by the National Science Foundations NOIRLab (National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory).
Using the Gemini South telescope, with an instrument called the Immersion GRating INfrared Spectrometer (IGRINS), the team observed the thermal glow of the exoplanet as it orbited its host star. From this instrument, they collected details on the presence and relative amounts of different gases in its atmosphere..
Like weather and environment satellites that are utilized to determine the quantity of water vapor and carbon dioxide in Earths environment, scientists can utilize spectrometers and telescopes, like IGRINS on Gemini South, to measure the amounts of different gases on other planets.
” Trying to find out the structure of planetary atmospheres resembles attempting to resolve a criminal activity with finger prints,” Line stated. “A smudged finger print doesnt truly narrow it down too much, but an extremely great, clean fingerprint offers a special identifier to who committed the criminal offense.”.
Where the Hubble Space Telescope supplied the team with perhaps a couple of fuzzy finger prints, IGRINS on Gemini South supplied the team with a full set of perfectly clear fingerprints.
And with clear measurements of both water and carbon monoxide in the environment of WASP-77Ab, the team was then able to approximate the relative quantities of oxygen and carbon in the exoplanets atmosphere..
By determining the Doppler shift highlighted in the best column of this figure, researchers can rebuild a worlds orbital speed in time towards or away from Earth. The strength of the world signal as shown in the middle column, along the expected obvious speed (navy dashed curve) of the planet as it orbits the star, consists of details on the amounts of various gases in the environment.
” These quantities remained in line with our expectations and have to do with the like the host stars,” Line said..
Acquiring ultra-precise gas abundances in exoplanet atmospheres is not just a crucial technical achievement, particularly with a ground-based telescope, it may likewise assist researchers look for life on other planets..
” This work represents a pathfinder demonstration for how we will eventually determine biosignature gases like oxygen and methane in possibly habitable worlds in the not-too-distant future,” Line stated..
What Line and the group anticipate to do next is repeat this analysis for a lot more worlds and build up a “sample” of atmospheric measurements on a minimum of 15 more planets..
” We are now at the point where we can get equivalent gas abundance accuracies to those planets in our own planetary system. Measuring the abundances of carbon and oxygen (and other aspects) in the atmospheres of a larger sample of exoplanets offers much needed context for understanding the origins and advancement of our own gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn,” Line said.
They also eagerly anticipate what future telescopes will have the ability to offer..
” If we can do this with todays technology, think of what we will have the ability to do with the up-and-coming telescopes like the Giant Magellan Telescope,” Line stated. “It is a genuine possibility that we can utilize this very same approach by the end of this years to sniff out potential signatures of life, which also include carbon and oxygen, on rocky Earth-like planets beyond our own planetary system.”.
Recommendation: “A solar C/O and sub-solar metallicity in a hot Jupiter atmosphere” by Michael R. Line, Matteo Brogi, Jacob L. Bean, Siddharth Gandhi, Joseph Zalesky, Vivien Parmentier, Peter Smith, Gregory N. Mace, Megan Mansfield, Eliza M.-R. Kempton, Jonathan J. Fortney, Evgenya Shkolnik, Jennifer Patience, Emily Rauscher, Jean-Michel Désert and Joost P. Wardenier, 27 October 2021, Nature.DOI: 10.1038/ s41586-021-03912-6.
In addition to Line, the research study group consists of Joseph Zalesky, Evgenya Shkolnik, Jennifer Patience, and Peter Smith of ASUs School of Earth and Space Exploration; Matteo Brogi and Siddharth Gandhi of the University of Warwick (UK); Jacob Bean and Megan Mansfield of the University of Chicago; Vivien Parmentier and Joost Wardenier of the University of Oxford (UK); Gregory Mace of the University of Texas at Austin; Eliza Kempton of the University of Maryland; Jonathan Fortney of the University of California, Santa Cruz; Emily Rauscher of the University of Michigan; and Jean-Michel Désert of the University of Amsterdam..

An artists concept of a “hot Jupiter” extrasolar world. Credit: NASA, ESA, and L. Hustak (STScI).
A worldwide team of scientists, using the ground-based Gemini Observatory telescope in Chile, is the first to straight determine the quantity of both water and carbon monoxide gas in the atmosphere of a world in another solar system approximately 340 light-years away.
The group is led by Assistant Professor Michael Line of Arizona State Universitys School of Earth and Space Exploration, and the results were published today (October 27, 2021) in the journal Nature..
There are countless recognized planets beyond our own planetary system (called exoplanets). Scientists utilize both space telescopes and ground-based telescopes to analyze how these exoplanets form and how they are various from the worlds in our own solar system..