Water Found in Alien Planet's Atmosphere Using New Technique

Water Found in Alien Planet's Atmosphere Using New Technique

Astronomers have used a new technique to detect water vapor within the atmosphere of a distant planet.

While water vapor has been detected on other planets in the past, a new technique developed by Caltech astronomers will make it possible to do so on planets that would have otherwise remained a mystery. In a paper published in the Feb. 24 volume of The Astrophysical Letters, the astronomers explained how the recent detection of carbon monoxide on a distant planet inspired them to employ a similar technique to detect water.

The majority of extrasolar planets do not fit the previously established criteria for detecting water vapor in their atmospheres, including planet "tau Boo b." But by using a technique that analyzes shifts in the wavelengths of the light emitted by the planet, the Caltech team was able to pick out water among the various molecular signatures.

"The readout we get from Keck Observatory's [Near Infrared Echelle Spectrograph] is like listening to an orchestra performance; you hear all of the music together, but if you listen carefully, you can pick out a trumpet or a violin or a cello, and you know that those instruments are present," said graduate student Alexandra Lockwood, the first author of the study. "The instrument allows you to pick out different pieces; like this wavelength of light means that there is sodium, or this one means that there's water."

This new technique is presently limited to "hot Jupiter" planets - gas giants like tau Boo b that orbit very close to their sun.

Source: Phys.org

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planet "tau Boo b."

Nobody can say that Astronomers don't have a sense of humour. If we find intelligent life there we'll have to call them Boobulons.

One of the main take-aways that I have gotten from our recent advances in detecting extra-solar planets is that life may be much more prevalent in just our Galaxy, let alone the Universe, than we previously thought. As far as I remember, we've detected some 3000 etra-solar planets with several hundred of them being found to exist in the "habitable" zone. Further, we've been able to detect liquid water as existing in the atmosphere of some of the largest of these planets, i.e. the hot "Jupiters"; it would not seem a large jump to think that there could also be liquid water on any one of the other planets, including those in the habitable zone.

Honestly, I think this is fantastic and so exciting. The prospect of demonstrating the potential existence of life elsewhere is just such a head-rush to me. In my mind, it changes the entire perspective of how we have to see ourselves in the Universe. We can no longer be so self-important to think we're so much at the center of things, a lesson science has repeatedly been trying to beat into our little noggins.

Okay, it's kind of cool that these guys are smart enough to figure this out this way, but...

Who cares if they can see water in the atmosphere of a planet we'd never be able to land on someday anyway?

--Morology!

CriticalMiss:

planet "tau Boo b."

Nobody can say that Astronomers don't have a sense of humour. If we find intelligent life there we'll have to call them Boobulons.

I suspect its home to giant space hamsters

Ace Morologist:
Okay, it's kind of cool that these guys are smart enough to figure this out this way, but...

Who cares if they can see water in the atmosphere of a planet we'd never be able to land on someday anyway?

--Morology!

We can't land on them today but someday we will, best to know where your heading before you point your little ship into deep space hoping to find something useful.

After years of waiting I just have one reaction to this news:
About freakin' time!

I mean I know they're still debating Mars and its former water supply, but c'mon, can they take a closer look at that planet and see what's going on?

albino boo:
I suspect its home to giant space hamsters

Miniature giant space hamsters. ;)

CriticalMiss:

planet "tau Boo b."

Nobody can say that Astronomers don't have a sense of humour. If we find intelligent life there we'll have to call them Boobulons.

Oh, I don't know...

I'm kinda partial to "Tauian Boobies".

 

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