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Switzerland, May 11 (Canadian-Media): After finding signatures of gaseous iron and titanium in its atmosphere in summer of 2018, the joint team of astronomers -- from the universities of Bern and Geneva -- were able to detect traces of vaporized sodium, magnesium, chromium, and the rare-Earth metals scandium and yttrium, Science X Newsletter reports said.
This artist's concept depicts a planetary system. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
For the past 20 years, astronomers from all over the world have been working to understand where these planets come from, what they are made of, and what their climates are like.
KELT-9 b is the hottest exoplanet known to date. Exoplanets are planets outside our solar system that orbit around stars other than the Sun. Since the discovery of the first exoplanets in the mid-90's, well over 3000 exoplanets have been discovered.
KELT-9 b exemplifies the most extreme of these so-called hot-Jupiters because it orbits very closely around its star that is almost twice as hot as the Sun, with its temperatures of around 4000 °C almost completely vaporizing all elements breaking all molecules into their constituent atoms. This means that the atmosphere contains no clouds or aerosols and the sky is clear, mostly transparent to light from its star.
Kevin Heng, Director and Professor at the Center for Space and Habitabilty (CSH) at the University of Bern, and Jens Hoeijmakers, Postdoc at the CSH in Bern and at Geneva Observatory, talk about exoplanet research.
Credit: University of Bern
After careful analysis, the researchers found strong signals of vaporized sodium, magnesium, chromium and the rare-Earth metals scandium and yttrium in the spectrum of the planet. The latter three of these have never been detected robustly in the atmosphere of an exoplanet before. "The team also advanced their interpretation of this data, and were able to use these signals to estimate at what altitude in the planet's atmosphere these atoms are absorbing," says Jens Hoeijmakers. What is more, the researchers also know more about strong global wind patterns high up in the atmosphere that blow the material from one hemisphere to the other.
"With further observations, many more elements may well be discovered by using the same technique in the atmosphere of this planet in the future, and perhaps also on other planets that are heated to similarly high temperatures," explains Jens Hoeijmakers.
Kevin Heng adds: "The chances are good that one day we will find so-called biosignatures, i.e. signs of life, on an exoplanet, using the same techniques that we are applying today. Ultimately, we want to use our research to fathom the origin and development of the solar system as well as the origin of life."
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)