Space Research

Exoplanet WASP-39b observed in greater detail by Hubble space telescope

There’s more to exoplanet WASP-39b than meets the eye with latest data from Hubble space telescope revealing greater details about the exoplanet’s atmosphere than ever before.

The exoplanet WASP-39b has already been before, but with the new data on hand astronomers are able to reveal more details about the composition of the exoplanet WASP-39b while also revealing that formation processes of exoplanets can be very different from those of our own Solar System giants.

Combining the powers of Hubble space telescope with those of other ground- and space-based telescopes, scientists studied exoplanet WASP-39b in greater detail and produced the most complete spectrum of an exoplanet’s atmosphere possible with present-day technology.

WASP-39b, which has been classified as a Hot Saturn, is located some 700 light-years from Earth. The exoplanet is roughly of the same mass as Saturn and at more or less the same distance from its parent star as Saturn from our Sun. The similarities between the two planets end there as scientists have discovered that despite being of similar mass, the two planets are profoundly different in many ways. Not only is WASP-39b not known to have a ring system, it also has a puffy atmosphere that is free of high-altitude clouds. This characteristic allowed Hubble to peer deep into its atmosphere.

Scientists found evidence for atmospheric water vapour on WASP-39b. The concentration of water on the exoplanet is three times that on Saturn. The team involved with the study believe that the exoplanet was likely bombarded by a lot of icy material which gathered in its atmosphere. This kind of bombardment would only be possible if WASP-39b formed much further away from its host star than it is right now.

There is also a possibility that WASP-39b underwent an interesting inward migration, making an epic journey across its planetary system. Because of the inward journey, WASP-39b is now eight times closer to its parent star, WASP-39, than Mercury is to the Sun and it takes only four days to complete an orbit.

The planet is also tidally locked, meaning it always shows the same side to its star. Scientists have estimated that temperature of WASP-39b would be around 750 degrees Celsius. Although only one side of the planet faces its parent star, powerful winds transport heat from the bright side around the planet, keeping the dark side almost as hot.

About the author

Maheen McMahon

Maheen McMahon

With multiple research papers under her belt, Maheen loves writing about science. Just fresh out of college, Mahen has great understanding about astronomy and cover space research news. You can get in touch with her here.

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