An artist’s illustration shows the planet WASP 127b — that is an ultra-light, but larger than Jupiter in orbit around the star.
(Gabriel Pérez, SMM (IAC))
An international team of astronomers has discovered traces of metals and possible signs of water in one of the least dense exoplanets ever found, according to a new study.
The exoplanet, called WASP-127b, is about 1.4 times larger than Jupiter, but only about 20 percent as massive, with a surface temperature of 2,060 degrees Fahrenheit (1,127 degrees Celsius). WASP-127b, which was discovered in 2016, is approximately 332 light-years away from the Earth. The “hot Jupiter” alien world it takes more than four Earth days to orbit its parent star.
Using the OSIRIS instrument on the Large Telescope of the Canary Islands (GTC),the researchers found a high concentration of alkali metals in the atmosphere of WASP-127b, such as sodium, potassium and lithium. The presence of these metals suggests that the planet has a partly clear sky, study team members said. [10 Exoplanets That Could Host Alien Life]
“The specific characteristics of this planet allowed us to perform a detailed study of the rich, the composition of the atmosphere,” lead author Chen Guo, a postdoctoral researcher at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), said in the statement. “The presence of [lithium] is very valuable for the understanding of the evolutionary history of the planetary system and can shed a new light on the mechanisms of planet formation.”
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The planet of the star, WASP-127, is also believed to have an abundance of lithium. This suggests that this extrasolar system formed from a cloud of material that was enriched by a supernova, or the death of a large star called an asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars, the researchers said.
In addition to traces of metals in the atmosphere, the researchers also found possible signs of water. However, further observations are needed to confirm that the detailed nature of the WASP-127b, according to the statement.
“Although this detection is not statistically significant, because the water features are weak in the visible [wavelength], our data shows that additional observations in the near-infrared, to detect with high significance,” Enric Pallé, co-author of the study and a researcher at the IAC, said in the same statement.
The team of the new study is available at the online preprint site arXiv.org and will be published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
Original article on Space.com.