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Atmosphere Around Exoplanet WASP-39b

WASP-39b is an extrasolar planet discovered in 2011 by the WASP project. It is known for containing a substantial amount of water in its atmosphere. In a recent research, an international team of scientists have studied the atmosphere of the hot exoplanet WASP-39b. They put to use the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

This research in combination with the older data has resulted in producing the first ever complete study of an exoplanet atmosphere. Such studies help in determining that how and where the planets form around a star. The WASP-39b orbits around a Sun-like star and is often referred to as "Hot-Saturn". It is called so because of the similarity of its mass with Saturn and its closeness to its parent star. The present study has asserted that despite being similar in mass, the two planets are hugely different from each other. It has also been found that WASP-39b has a puffy atmosphere which doesn’t contain high-altitude clouds. It was because of this feature that the Hubble telescope could peer deep into its atmosphere. The team further confirmed the presence of atmospheric water vapours.

They stated that WASP-39b contains three times as much water as Saturn does. This further confirms the presence of large amount of heavier elements in the atmosphere around WASP-39b. Therefore, it becomes clear that this planet has undergone bombardment by icy material. As a result, it was inferred that this planet formed much further away from its host star than it is right now. This incredible inward migration of WASP-39b has brought it eight times closer to its parent star. In the near future, the team aims to put to use the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope so as to capture an even more complete spectrum of the atmosphere of WASP-39b. 

By: Anuja Arora


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