Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NASA Scientists Detect Spectrum of Planets Orbiting Other Stars

23.02.2007
For the first time, scientists at Goddard have obtained a spectrum, or molecular fingerprint, of a planet orbiting another star. Using spectroscopy, scientists were able to identify silicon dust in clouds on a gas-giant planet called HD 209458b. That planet is located 150 light years from Earth.

"This first-of-its-kind measurement represents a significant advance in the field of extrasolar planetary science," said Jeremy Richardson, NASA Postdoctoral Fellow at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. Richardson and colleagues published their study in the Feb. 22 issue of Nature magazine.

One way in which scientists can study the properties of extrasolar planets is using spectroscopy, which refers to spreading light into its different colors (similar to a prism). For these observations, the team used NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, which operates in the infrared.

The team took advantage of the unique geometry of this particular planetary system. It is a so-called "transiting planet," meaning that the planet crosses in front of its star as seen from Earth. By measuring the spectrum of the planet and star together, then subtracting the spectrum of the star alone (when the planet is hidden behind the star), scientists can figure out the spectrum of the planet.

Richardson and his co-authors found that the extrasolar planet's spectrum revealed the "signature" of silicate (an element found on Earth) dust in clouds high in the planet's atmosphere.

Although the scientists saw "spectral signatures" or identifiers that were related to clouds, they were surprised that they didn't see any signatures that showed there was water vapor. On Earth, clouds are composed primarily of water vapor.

Richardson said that planets similar to this one, often called "hot Jupiter" type planets because they are gaseous like Jupiter but very close to their parent stars (even closer than Mercury is to the sun), must contain water vapor.

"Since oxygen and hydrogen are such abundant molecules in the cosmos it is virtually impossible for water (as vapor, or steam) to be absent from the planet, Richardson said. “So. the water vapor must be hidden, probably by the same cloud layer that we detect in the spectrum."

Once more powerful infrared telescopes like the James Webb Space Telescope, slated for launch in 2013, are launched, and as smaller planets are detected, this technique may hold promise for detecting the signatures of life on hot Earth-like planets.

In addition to Richardson's team, two other independent groups also captured spectra of extrasolar planets. See http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/Media/releases/ssc2007-04/ for details.

Rob Gutro | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2007/cloudy_world.html
http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/Media/releases/ssc2007-04

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Basque researchers turn light upside down
23.02.2018 | Elhuyar Fundazioa

nachricht Attoseconds break into atomic interior
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik

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: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>