Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Field guide for confirming new earth-like planets described

08.09.2005


’Light breaks where no sun shines’


WUSTL researchers provide a field guide to exoplanets



Astronomers looking for earth-like planets in other solar systems — exoplanets — now have a new field guide thanks to earth and planetary scientists at Washington University in St. Louis.

Bruce Fegley, Ph.D., Washington University professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, and Laura Schaefer, laboratory assistant, have used thermochemical equilibrium calculations to model the chemistry of silicate vapor and steam-rich atmospheres formed when earth-like planets are undergoing accretion . During the accretion process, with surface temperatures of several thousands degrees Kelvin (K), a magma ocean forms and vaporizes.


"What you have are elements that are typically found in rocks in a vapor atmosphere," said Schaefer. "At temperatures above 3,080 K, silicon monoxide gas is the major species in the atmosphere. At temperatures under 3,080 K, sodium gas is the major species. These are the indicators of an earth-like planet forming."

At such red-hot temperatures during the latter stages of the exoplanets’ formation, the signal should be distinct, said Fegley.

"It should be easily detectable because this silicon monoxide gas is easily observable," with different types of telescopes at infrared and radio wavelengths, Fegley said.

Schaefer presented the results at the annual meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society, held Sept. 4-9 in Cambridge, England. The NASA Astrobiology Institute and Origins Program supported the work.

Forming a maser

Steve Charnley, a colleague at NASA AMES, suggested that some of the light emitted by SiO gas during the accretion process could form a maser — Microwave Amplification by Stimulation Emission of Radiation. Whereas a laser is comprised of photons in the ultraviolet or visible light spectrum, masers are energy packets in the microwave image.

Schaefer explains: "What you basically have is a clump of silicon monoxide gas, and some of it is excited into a state higher than ground level. You have some radiation coming in and it knocks against these silicon monoxide molecules and they drop down to a lower state.

"By doing that, it also emits another photon, so then you essentially have a propagating light. You end up with this really very high intensity illumination coming out of this gas."

According to Schaefer, the light from newly forming exoplanets should be possible to see.

"There are natural lasers in the solar system," she said. "We see them in the atmospheres of Mars and Venus, and also in some cometary atmospheres."

In recent months, astronomers have reported earth-like planets with six to seven times the mass of our earth. While they resemble a terrestrial planet like earth, there has not yet been a foolproof method of detection. The spectra of silicon monoxide and sodium gas would be the indication of a magma ocean on the astronomical object, and thus an indication a planet is forming, said Fegley.

The calculations that Fegley and Schaefer used also apply to our own earth. The researchers found that during later, cooler stages of accretion (below 1,500 K), the major gases in the steam-rich atmosphere are water, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, carbon and nitrogen, with the carbon converting to methane as the steam atmosphere cools.

Tony Fitzpatrick | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wustl.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions
27.04.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>