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Possible Signs of Water Found in Unique Exoplanet – WASP-127b

June 1, 2018
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Possible Signs of Water Found in Unique Exoplanet – WASP-127b

The new discovery is unlike anything in our Solar System. Researchers from the University of Cambridge are investigating the gaseous exoplanet, WASP-127b.

They have identified ‘fingerprints’ of multiple metals and in one of the least dense exoplanets ever found. For this investigation, scientists at the University of Cambridge and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) have used the OSIRIS instrument of the Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC). Therefore they have found that the planet has strong signatures of metals in its atmosphere.

The study shows that WASP-127b has a radius of 1.4 times greater than Jupiter. But only possess 20 percent of its mass.

Scientists detected the presence of a large concentration of alkali metals such as Sodium, potassium, and lithium in its atmosphere. So, the gaseous planet has partly clear skies. The researchers found that the skies of WASP-127b are approximately 50% clear.

“The particular characteristics of this planet allowed us to perform a detailed study of its rich atmospheric composition,” said Dr. Guo Chen, a postdoctoral researcher at IAC and the study’s first author. “The presence of lithium is important to understand the evolutionary history of the planetary system and could shed light on the mechanisms of planet formation.”

The researchers also found possible signs of water. But they aren’t sure due to the fact that the water features are weak in the visible spectrum.

“While this detection is not statistically significant, as water features are weak in the visible range, our data indicate that additional observations in the near-infrared should be able to detect it,” said co-author Enric Pallé, also from IAC.

Co-author Dr. Nikku Madhusudhan, from Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy, said, “The results demonstrate the potential of ground-based telescopes for the study of planetary atmospheres. The detection of a trace element such as lithium in a planetary atmosphere is a major breakthrough and motivates new follow-up observations and detailed theoretical modeling to corroborate the findings.”

Its parent star, WASP-127, also rich in lithium.

It takes the giant planet just over four days to orbit its parent star. Its surface temperature is around 1400 K (1127° C).

The planet’s host star, WASP-127, is also lithium rich. Researchers say this could lead to an AGB star, a bright red giant, thousands of times brighter than the sun. Or a supernova having enriched the cloud of material from which this system originated.

“The presence of lithium is important to understand the evolutionary history of the planetary system and could shed light on the mechanisms of planet formation,” said Dr. Chen.

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