Iron And Titanium Detected In The Atmosphere Of An Ultra-hot Exoplanet

Posted: Aug 18 2018, 7:39am CDT | by , Updated: Aug 18 2018, 7:45am CDT , in Latest Science News


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Iron and Titanium Detected in the Atmosphere of an Ultra-hot Exoplanet
Artist's view of a sunset over KELT-9b. Credit: Denis Bajram

The exoplanet is blistering hot with a surface temperature of more than 4000 degrees

Astronomers have oberved a blazing-hot exoplanet with strong signatures of iron and titanium vapors in its atmosphere. The planet is so close to its host star that it completes an orbit in just 36 hours and is estimated to have a surface temperature of about 4,000 degrees.

An international team of researchers led by University of Geneva used HARPS-North spectrograph installed on the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo to observe atmosphere of the untrahot exoplanet. The planet, named KELT-9b, is a gas giant that was discovered last year by a team of US astronomers. It orbits a star KELT-9 located 650 light years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. The star is almost twice as hot as the sun with a temperature of over 10,000 degrees. When a host star is much hotter than the sun, the planet around it becomes as hot as a star. However, KELT-9b is not as hot as sun. The observations of the planet reveal the presence of heavy metals like iron and titanium in its atmosphere.

“Most of the molecules found there should be in atomic form, because the bonds that hold them together are broken by collisions between particles that occur at these extremely high temperatures.” Kevin Heng, a professor at the University of Bern (UNIBE) said in a statement.

The detection was made possible by transit method. As KELT-9b passes in front of its host star, a tiny fraction of the starlight passes through the planet's atmosphere and leaves subtle fingerprints in the light. These fingerprints can provide clues about the composition of a planet when they eventually reach Earth.

But detection of molecules in a planet’s atmosphere is not an easy task. Researchers used a spectrograph which splits light from an object into its component wavelengths and analyze it to draw conclusions.

KELT-9b is a special class of ultra-hot exoplanets. Although it experiences strong stellar radiation, it is probably massive enough to withstand total evaporation.

David Ehrenreich, principal investigator with UNIGE says. “This planet is a unique laboratory to analyze how atmospheres can evolve under intense stellar radiation."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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