Astronomers Find Water in a Neptune Sized Planet

Over the last couple of months, discovery of exoplanets has gained significant momentum as scientists are providing glimpses of different planets’ atmospheres and if they are suitable for sustaining life. Recently, scientists have announced that a Neptune sized planet residing more than 400 light years away contain significant amount of water in its atmosphere.

However, unlike Neptune, the planet is significantly closer to its star as it takes only four days to complete an orbit. However, the size of the planet is significantly bigger than that of Neptune. Scientists have concluded that such size might occur from the fact that it is closer to its star which caused the planet’s atmosphere to expand due to heat. To give you an idea, the temperature of the planet’s atmosphere is nearly 1,000 kelvin which will make most of the known element vaporize within seconds.

Although the planet isn’t suitable for sustaining life forms, it gives scientists a better perspective into how atmosphere in the other planets can be. The team behind the finding obtained data in different imaging time on the Hubble Space Telescope and found some archival images taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope.  The combined data revealed areas where key molecules would absorb different matters including water, carbon dioxide, and methane.

While there was no sign of methane or carbon dioxide, there was significant amount of water in the atmosphere of the planet. However, as the temperature of the platform is significantly higher, chances are that the clouds of the planet contain significant amount of sulfur-based chemicals, like zinc and sodium sulfide. Given that the atmosphere isn’t so dense to contain massive supply of water, chances are the planet has substantial amount of gas left from the days when the planet was formed.

 

While we have to wait a long time before we find a planet that could contain similar atmosphere to Earth’s, it’s interesting to hear from scientists that there are planets which contain water, key element to sustain life although they are far from suitable to sustain life.

Feaetured Image: NASA

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