The discovery of an exoplanet the size of Neptune with an “unknown” atmosphere that may contain water vapor


Astronomers have identified a new exoplanet the size of Neptune with a “large atmosphere”, and its clouds may contain water vapor, according to a new study.

The exoplanet is known as TOI-1231 b, and its orbit extends over 24 days around its star, TOI-1231, and could have an atmosphere similar to Neptune, due to its size and density. There is also the possibility of water vapor on the planet, which is 90 light-years away from Earth, what interests scientists.

“The low density of TOI-1231 b indicates that it is surrounded by a large atmosphere and is not a rocky planet,” study co-author Diana Dragomir, assistant professor in the University of New Mexico’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, said in a statement. But the composition and extent of this atmosphere is unknown.”

“TOI-1231 b could have a large hydrogen or hydrogen and helium atmosphere, or a denser water vapor atmosphere,” Dragomir continued. Each of these elements points to a different origin, allowing astronomers to understand whether and how planets form differently around red dwarfs when compared to planets around our sun.

Red dwarfs, or cold dwarfs (small M-type stars), are types of stars much smaller than the Sun, with masses between 8% and 50% of the Sun’s mass. It is the most abundant class of stars.

Water vapor on TOI-1231 b may be just a possibility, but it’s still one of the coolest exoplanets ever discovered, with a predicted temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Previous studies have suggested that planets with such a temperature can have high atmospheric clouds, but further research on exoplanets K2-18 b shows the possibility of water in the atmosphere.

The exoplanet was discovered by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and later confirmed using the Planet Finder spectrometer aboard the Magellan Clay Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. Read more

The study’s lead author, Jennifer Burt, said the researchers were able to measure the planet’s radius and mass, which allowed them to theorize that it is similar in composition to Neptune.

“These values, in turn, allowed us to calculate the bulk density of the planet and hypothesize what it is made of,” Burt explained.

Scientists hope to further examine the planet’s atmosphere with the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Telescope, due to launch later this year.

Burt continued: “This new planet that we discovered is still strange, but it is a step closer to being somewhat like our neighboring planets. Compared to most transiting planets discovered so far, which often have extreme temperatures of several hundreds or thousands of degrees, TOI-1231 b is positively freezing.”

Source: Daily Mail


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