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 A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL
23.06.2017 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

nachricht Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?
23.06.2017 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>