Water Discovered in Distant Planet’s Atmosphere for First Time
Far beyond our solar system lies a planet said by astronomers to contain water vapor.
At a size about four times the diameter of Earth, HAT-P-11b orbits so close to its star that surface temperatures top more than 600C. Lacking a solid surface — it’s made of gas — it is presumed to contain no life.
The Independent reports:
Observations of the Neptune-sized planet, which lies 120 light years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus, revealed that its atmosphere was mostly hydrogen with around 25% made up from water vapour.
Until now, researchers have been frustrated in their efforts to study the atmospheres of planets much smaller than Jupiter because their skies were thick with clouds. The problem was so persistent that astronomers had begun to think that all warm, small planets formed with substantial cloud cover.
But writing in the journal Nature, scientists in the US describe how they found a Neptune-sized planet with cloud-free skies, enabling them to make detailed measurements of a small planet’s atmosphere for the first time.
Read more here.
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