Science

A New Neptune-Like Planet Has Been Discovered By The Scientists

A New Neptune-Like Planet Has Been Discovered By The Scientists”

It's a type of planet which we didn't even know existed - a Neptune-sized planet closer to a star than its namesake. The primitive nature of its atmosphere indicates that the planetary body might have formed closer to its star and/or at a later time of the evolution of its solar system, thus differentiating it from our Neptune and Uranus. The study, published in the journal Science, made three notable findings: The exoplanet has an atmosphere made up nearly entirely of hydrogen and helium, it has a relatively cloudless sky and it has a strong water signature.

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Using combined observations from NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, astronomers find that planet HAT-P-26b, located some 437 light years from Earth, has a relatively cloudless atmosphere made up nearly entirely of hydrogen and helium.

The research, the scientists say, could have huge implications regarding experts' understanding of the formation of our solar system. The new study also showed that the planet has an atmosphere composed nearly entirely of hydrogen and helium, something which was even more unexpected. During the transit period of the planet, a part of its parent star's light filters through its atmosphere and it can be seen clearly.

In our solar system and two planets outside our solar system, the general trend observed among the gassy planets is that larger planets have smaller amounts of heavy elements. The astronomers also detected water and evidence of exotic clouds in the planet's air.

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So, just like the much more massive Jupiter, HAT-P-26b appears to be made of mostly hydrogen and helium. For a planet that hangs so close to its star - orbiting it in just 4.23 days, in fact - that breaks a pattern astronomers are used to seeing in the atmospheric composition of other planets. Water serves as a representative of all the elements in the atmosphere heavier than hydrogen and helium. It gives more clues about how a planet formed. These figures are interpreted as follows: when the solar system was forming, Neptune and Uranus were developing at a region in the extremities of the giant disk of dust, gas, and debris surrounding the young sun.

But Wakeford and her colleagues found that HAT-P-26b bucks the trend. The discovery points out at a greater diversity in the atmospheres of exoplanets than was previously assumed, says Professor Sing.

"This analysis shows that there is a lot more diversity in the atmospheres of these exoplanets than we were expecting, which is providing insight into how planets can form and evolve differently than in our solar system", said David K. Sing of the University of Exeter and the second author of the paper.

JPL manages the Spitzer Space Telescope for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope.



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