Astronomers from the University of Kansas found water vapor in the atmosphere of the exoplanet TOI-674 b.
This object is the size of Neptune and is only 150 light-years from Earth.
Of course, such a distance is impossible to cover for the humanity with current technologies, but on a cosmic scale it is very close.
The discovery of astronomers is important not only due to the proximity of TOI-674 b to the Earth, but also the possibility of reconstructing the events that led to the formation of individual planets.
TOI-674 b, as the exoplanet is called, is about 1.3 times larger than Neptune. However, its orbit is much shorter than that of the solar system object.
This newly discovered object, on the other hand, only needs two days to make a complete orbit around its star.
By comparison, Neptune orbits the Sun about once every 165 years.
Due to such huge differences, it is easy to guess that these two planets have slightly different conditions.
According to Jonathan Brande, who headed the research team responsible for the research scheduled for publication in The Astronomical Journal, several questions arise with the discovery of TOI-674b.
First of all, scientists would like to know how this exoplanet was formed and ended up in its current orbit.
Conversely, how did Neptune come to be, and under what circumstances did he get as far away from the sun as he is today?
Brande and his colleagues observed the atmosphere of TOI-674b using the Hubble Space Telescope.
They combined the collected data with those provided by the TESS mission and the Spitzer Space Telescope.
Researchers used the transit method by measuring the spectrum of light passing through an exoplanet's atmosphere as it passed in front of a star there.
In this way, for example, the presence of water vapor or other chemicals such as methane or carbon dioxide can be detected.
Interestingly, this is not the first time astronomers have been able to detect water vapor in the atmosphere of a planet other than Earth.
In 2019, also thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope, it was possible to find water vapor within K2-18b.
In the case of that object, the emotions were even greater because its distance from the star causes it to orbit the so-called habitable zone.
In such a region, potential water on the surface of this exoplanet could remain in a liquid state.
- Arxiv: https://arxiv.org/abs/2201.04197
- NASA: https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/news/1698/discovery-alert-water-vapor-detected-on-a-super-neptune/