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De Webb Space Telescope vindt water op een vreemde, oververhitte wereld

De Webb Space Telescope vindt water op een vreemde, oververhitte wereld

WASP-18 b, getoond in een concept van een kunstenaar, is een gasreus exoplaneet die 10 keer zo zwaar is als Jupiter en die in slechts 23 uur om zijn ster draait. Onderzoekers gebruikten NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope om de planeet te bestuderen terwijl deze achter zijn ster beweegt. Temperaturen bereiken daar 5.000 graden Fahrenheit (2.700 graden Celsius). Krediet: NASA/JPL-Caltech (K. Miller/IPAC)

gebruik makend van[{” attribute=””>James Webb Space Telescope, scientists have created the first detailed temperature map of exoplanet WASP-18 b, and identified water vapor in its extremely hot atmosphere. These findings are providing valuable insights into the planet’s formation, suggesting it likely emerged from the leftover gas after its star’s birth.

There’s an intriguing exoplanet out there – 400 light-years out there – that is so tantalizing that astronomers have been studying it since its discovery in 2009. A year for WASP-18 b, one orbit around its star (slightly larger than our Sun), takes just 23 hours. There’s nothing like it in our solar system. In addition to observatories on the ground, NASA’s Hubble, Chandra, TESS, and Spitzer space telescopes have all observed WASP-18 b, an ultra-hot gas giant 10 times more massive than Jupiter. Now astronomers have taken a look with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and the “firsts” keep coming.

The discovery: Scientists identified water vapor in the atmosphere of WASP-18 b, and made a temperature map of the planet as it slipped behind, and reappeared from, its star. This event is known as a secondary eclipse. Scientists can read the combined light from star and planet, then refine the measurements from just the star as the planet moves behind it.

The same side, known as the dayside, of WASP-18 b always faces the star, just as the same side of the Moon always faces Earth. The temperature, or brightness, map shows a huge change in temperature – up to 1,000 degrees – from the hottest point facing the star to the terminator, where day and night sides of the tidally-locked planet meet in permanent twilight.

De onderzoekers maakten een helderheidskaart en volgden de gloed van hete gebieden van WASP-18 b terwijl het achter zijn ster gleed en weer terug. Deze gebeurtenis staat bekend als een secundaire zonsverduistering. Wetenschappers kunnen het gecombineerde licht van de ster en de planeet meten en vervolgens alleen het licht van de ster meten terwijl de planeet erachter beweegt. De plot is een lichtkromme, de gemeten verandering in de helderheid van een ster als een planeet voor of achter de ster beweegt. Een kaart van de helderheid van de planeet, verkregen met NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, stelde onderzoekers in staat om de temperatuur van de atmosfeer van de planeet in kaart te brengen. Krediet: NASA/[{” attribute=””>JPL-Caltech (K. Miller/IPAC)

“JWST is giving us the sensitivity to make much more detailed maps of hot giant planets like WASP-18 b than ever before. This is the first time a planet has been mapped with JWST, and it’s really exciting to see that some of what our models predicted, such as a sharp drop in temperature away from the point on the planet directly facing the star, is actually seen in the data!” said Megan Mansfield, a Sagan Fellow at the University of Arizona, and one of the authors of the paper describing the results.​

The team mapped temperature gradients across the day side of the planet. Given how much cooler the planet is at the terminator, there is likely something hindering winds from efficiently redistributing heat to the night side. But what is affecting the winds is still a mystery.

“The brightness map of WASP-18 b shows a lack of east-west winds that is best matched by models with atmospheric drag. One possible explanation is that this planet has a strong magnetic field, which would be an exciting discovery!” said co-author Ryan Challener, of the University of Michigan.

WASP-18 b Atmospheric Spectrum From James Webb Space Telescope

The team obtained the thermal emission spectrum of WASP-18 b by measuring the amount of light it emits over NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRISS SOSS 0.85-2.8 um wavelength range, capturing 65% of the total energy emitted by the planet. WASP-18 b is so hot on the day side of this tidally-locked planet (the same side always faces its star, as the Moon to Earth) that water vapor molecules would break apart. The Webb Telescope directly observed water vapor on the planet in even relatively small amounts, indicating the sensitivity of the observatory. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech (R. Hurt/IPAC)

One interpretation of the eclipse map is that magnetic effects force the winds to blow from the planet’s equator up over the North pole and down over the South pole, instead of East-West, as we would otherwise expect.

Researchers recorded temperature changes at different elevations of the gas giant planet’s layers of atmosphere. They saw temperatures increase with elevation, varying by hundreds of degrees. ​

The spectrum of the planet’s atmosphere clearly shows multiple small but precisely measured water features, present despite the extreme temperatures of almost 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,700 °C). It’s so hot that it would tear most water molecules apart, so still seeing its presence speaks to Webb’s extraordinary sensitivity to detect remaining water. The amounts recorded in WASP-18 b’s atmosphere indicate water vapor is present at various elevations.

“It was a great feeling to look at WASP-18 b’s JWST spectrum for the first time and see the subtle but precisely measured signature of water,” said Louis-Philippe Coulombe, a graduate student at the University of Montreal and lead author of the WASP-18 b paper. “Using such measurements, we will be able to detect such molecules for a wide range of planets in the years to come!”

Researchers looked at WASP-18 b for about six hours with one of Webb’s instruments, the Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS), contributed by the Canadian Space Agency.

“Because the water features in this spectrum are so subtle, they were difficult to identify in previous observations. That made it really exciting to finally see water features with these JWST observations,” said Anjali Piette, a postdoctoral fellow at the Carnegie Institution for Science and one of the authors of the new research.

Exoplanet Eclipses and Transits for WASP-18 b

Scientists used the James Webb Space Telescope to observe the exoplanet WASP-18 b and its star before, during and after the planet was eclipsed. By measuring the change in light when the planet travels behind the star, the planet’s brightness is revealed. From these measurements, scientists were able to make a temperature map of the planet’s day side. Displayed temperature range: 2,800 to 4,800 degrees Fahrenheit (1,500 to 2,600 degrees Celsius). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech (R. Hurt/IPAC)

The discoverers: More than 100 scientists around the globe are working on early science from Webb through the Transiting Exoplanet Community Early Release Science Program led by Natalie Batalha, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who helped coordinate the new research. Much of this groundbreaking work is being done by early career scientists like Coulombe, Challener, Piette, and Mansfield.

Proximity, both to its star and to us, helped make WASP-18 b such an intriguing target for scientists, as did its large mass. WASP-18 b is one of the most massive worlds whose atmospheres we can investigate. We want to know how such planets form and come to be where they are. This, too, has some early answers from Webb.​

“By analyzing WASP-18b’s spectrum, we not only learn about the various molecules that can be found in its atmosphere but also about the way it formed. We find from our observations that WASP-18 b’s composition is very similar to that of its star, meaning it most likely formed from the leftover gas that was present just after the star was born,” Coulombe said. “Those results are very valuable to get a clear picture of how strange planets like WASP-18 b, which have no counterpart in our solar system, come to exist.”

Reference: “A broadband thermal emission spectrum of the ultra-hot Jupiter WASP-18b” by Louis-Philippe Coulombe, Björn Benneke, Ryan Challener, Anjali A. A. Piette, Lindsey S. Wiser, Megan Mansfield, Ryan J. MacDonald, Hayley Beltz, Adina D. Feinstein, Michael Radica, Arjun B. Savel, Leonardo A. Dos Santos, Jacob L. Bean, Vivien Parmentier, Ian Wong, Emily Rauscher, Thaddeus D. Komacek, Eliza M.-R. Kempton, Xianyu Tan, Mark Hammond, Neil T. Lewis, Michael R. Line, Elspeth K. H. Lee, Hinna Shivkumar, Ian J.M. Crossfield, Matthew C. Nixon, Benjamin V. Rackham, Hannah R. Wakeford, Luis Welbanks, Xi Zhang, Natalie M. Batalha, Zachory K. Berta-Thompson, Quentin Changeat, Jean-Michel Désert, Néstor Espinoza, Jayesh M. Goyal, Joseph Harrington, Heather A. Knutson, Laura Kreidberg, Mercedes López-Morales, Avi Shporer, David K. Sing, Kevin B. Stevenson, Keshav Aggarwal, Eva-Maria Ahrer, Munazza K. Alam, Taylor J. Bell, Jasmina Blecic, Claudio Caceres, Aarynn L. Carter, Sarah L. Casewell, Nicolas Crouzet, Patricio E. Cubillos, Leen Decin, Jonathan J. Fortney, Neale P. Gibson, Kevin Heng, Thomas Henning, Nicolas Iro, Sarah Kendrew, Pierre-Olivier Lagage, Jérémy Leconte, Monika Lendl, Joshua D. Lothringer, Luigi Mancini, Thomas Mikal-Evans, Karan Molaverdikhani, Nikolay K. Nikolov, Kazumasa Ohno, Enric Palle, Caroline Piaulet, Seth Redfield, Pierre-Alexis Roy, Shang-Min Tsai, Olivia Venot and Peter J. Wheatley, 19 January 2023, Astrophysics > Earth and Planetary Astrophysics.

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