Scientist spots exoplanet with hydrogen sulphide atmosphere and deadly glass rain

July 10, 2024  18:14

Astronomers from Johns Hopkins University, using NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, have discovered a hydrogen sulfide atmosphere with glass rains on the Jupiter-like exoplanet HD 189733 b. The planet is approximately 13 times closer to its star than Mercury is to the Sun, with a surface temperature of 930°C and wind speeds reaching 8000 km/h.

HD 189733 b, first discovered in 2005, is about 64 light-years from Earth, making it the nearest Jupiter-like planet available for astronomical observations. Despite its extreme weather conditions, the exoplanet offers valuable research opportunities for astronomers and scientists.

“Sulfur is a crucial element for building more complex molecules, much like carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and phosphorus. Scientists need to study it more to fully understand what planets are made of,” explained Guangwei Fu, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University who led the research recently published in the journal Nature. He added that the presence of hydrogen sulfide on other celestial bodies could provide insights into how different types of planets form.

The team also measured the content of heavy metals similar to those found on Jupiter, which may help scientists correlate the amount of these elements with the planet’s mass. For example, Neptune and Uranus contain more metals and other heavy elements compared to Jupiter and Saturn, which are dominated by gases like hydrogen and helium. Scientists believe that the composition of planets reflects their early formation processes and are trying to determine if the same holds true for exoplanets across the universe.

Fu and his colleagues plan to track the presence of sulfur compounds on other exoplanets to determine how high levels of this element are related to the distance from stars where planet formation occurs. “We want to understand how such planets arrived at their specific orbits, and understanding the composition of their atmospheres will help us answer that question,” Fu stated.

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