STATES CHRONICLE – The Hubble Space Telescope helped astronomers made an interesting discovery regarding an exoplanet situated 900 light-years away from Earth. This planet, dubbed WASP-121b or “Hot Jupiter”, might have a stratosphere. This is relevant, since it’s the first time when researchers observe faraway exoplanets exhibiting traits typical of planets closer to Earth.
NASA calls this exoplanet Hot Jupiter since it’s similar to our own Jupiter, but a little puffier. However, it’s much hotter. The exoplanet is situated so close to its sun that temperatures can get so high that metals could boil there.
Astronomers suspected that other exoplanets had stratospheres, but nothing was confirmed until they observed how hot water molecules were present on Hot Jupiter. These vapors have different behaviors at different temperatures, so they took the advanced equipment of Hubble Space Telescope and started studying the planet.
They analyzed how these water vapors interacted with different wavelengths of light. If the vapors are cool, they block certain wavelength of lights from being emitted into space. If they are warm, light gets emitted into space. When looking at Hot Jupiter, they observed how its water vapors emitted infrared light.
The hot water vapors signaled the existence of a stratosphere
The stratosphere is one layer of the atmosphere where temperatures increase with height. Since these water vapor had a high temperature, they signaled to the astronomers that Hot Jupiter had a stratosphere.
They also managed to find out how temperatures increase by 1,000 degrees in the stratosphere. However, they cannot tell what other chemicals are present near the water vapors which cause them to get so hot. Even so, Hot Jupiter makes a great subject for observation.
As astronomers will soon start using the James Webb Space Telescope, they will have the chance to deepen their study of this interesting exoplanet, and develop an atmospheric model of it from which we can learn more.
Image Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory