A unique exoplanet without clouds or haze was found by astrophysicists from Harvard and Smithsonian.
- Astronomers from Harvard and Smithsonian find a very rare "hot Jupiter" exoplanet without clouds or haze.
- Such planets were formed differently from others and offer unique research opportunities.
- Only one other such exoplanet was found previously.
Munazza Alam – a graduate student at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian.
Credit: Jackie Faherty
Jupiter's Colorful Cloud Bands Studied by Spacecraft<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8a72dfe5b407b584cf867852c36211dc"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GzUzCesfVuw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Using a laboratory model, scientists get a nice Jovian surprise.
Europa<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc3MTI1My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NDI3NDc0NX0.JbEiK8PdcXijlCQpx64kRa31ZK7LHYBxWbSNvYDnPtk/img.jpg?width=980" id="82e0a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9b59f7517b28903965ceda93f5ea2fda" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="1435" />
Enhanced closeup of the "chaos terrain" that is the icy surface of Europa
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute<p>Europa is believed to have an ocean of water or slush beneath its chaotically-featured water-ice surface. <a href="https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/moons/jupiter-moons/europa/in-depth/" target="_blank">According to NASA</a>, it's suspected that the moon's ice layer is 10 to 15 miles thick and floats atop an ocean 40 to 100 miles deep. Europa is just a quarter the size of Earth, but its vastness and depth may mean that it has twice as much water as all of our oceans combined.</p><p>With water considered to be a prerequisite for life, scientists' interest in Europa is obvious. NASA is sending the radiation-resistant <a href="https://europa.nasa.gov" target="_blank">Europa Clipper</a> there to have a look. The spacecraft will conduct 45 flybys at different distances, ranging from 1,675 miles to 16 miles above the ice. The Europa Clipper will carry cameras, spectrometers, ice-penetrating radar, magnetometer, thermal instruments, a device for measuring gravity, and more.</p><p>NASA has previously detected what may be vapor plumes extending outward from Europa. If the Europa Clipper confirms their existence, it may be possible in the future to sample the moon's escaping vapors without needing to land or drill through the ice.</p>
ICE-HEART<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc3MTI0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NjgxMTc0MX0.8uSQDxAMwj6F87h7IHYbEvuthYYSELDjayvBVMjZWC0/img.jpg?width=980" id="a8563" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a3a27b24fb13430dd900d92e9267bf38" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="773" />
Artist's impression of Europa against a backdrop of Jupiter
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech<p>The researchers modeled Europa's response to Jupiter's radiation using a special instrument they constructed called the Ice Chamber for Europa's High-Energy Electron and Radiation Environment Testing (ICE-HEART). To blast it with radiation, they took it to the Medical Industrial Radiation Facility at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland, a high-energy electron beam facility.</p><p>Expecting that Europa's oceans would contain a mix of water and salts similar to those on Earth, they were investigating the response of various materials to radiation. They began with magnesium sulfate and sodium chloride — essentially Epsom salt and table salt — both believed to be in Europa's ice.</p><p>They weren't surprised to see some glowing caused by energetic electrons getting through the moon's ice and energizing molecules beneath it. The glow is generated when the molecules relax after exposure.</p><p>However, the variety of colored glows emitted by radiated compounds was a surprise, according to co-author Bryana Henderson. "We never imagined that we would see what we ended up seeing," Henderson said. "When we tried new ice compositions, the glow looked different. And we all just stared at it for a while and then said, 'This is new, right? This is definitely a different glow?' So we pointed a spectrometer at it, and each type of ice had a different spectrum." (Spectrometers divide light into wavelengths that can signify specific compounds.)</p><p>"Seeing the sodium chloride brine with a significantly lower level of glow was the 'aha' moment that changed the course of the research," said co-author Fred Bateman.</p>
Both sides now<p>We can see our own moon because it reflects sunlight. Most spectrometer readings of Europa have thus far been derived from observations of its light-reflecting bright side.</p><p>"If Europa weren't under this radiation," said Gudipati, "it would look the way our moon looks to us — dark on the shadowed side. But because it's bombarded by the radiation from Jupiter, it glows in the dark."</p><p>This means that the moon's dark side also emits light in the form of its glow, so here come the spectrometers. Gudipati said of the research, "We were able to predict that this nightside ice glow could provide additional information on Europa's surface composition. How that composition varies could give us clues about whether Europa harbors conditions suitable for life."</p><p>He adds, "It's not often that you're in a lab and say, 'We might find this when we get there. Usually, it's the other way around — you go there and find something and try to explain it in the lab. But our prediction goes back to a simple observation, and that's what science is about."</p>
Some of the most extreme weather in the Solar System just got stranger.
- The Juno space probe orbiting Jupiter has observed lightning at impossibly high points in the Jovian atmosphere.
- The findings, combined with other atmopsheric data, led to the creation of a new model of the atmosphere.
- The findings answer a few questions about Jupiter, but create many more.
A NASA designed graphic demonstrating the weather systems theorized to create "mushballs." The liquid water and ammonia rises in the storm clouds until they reach points where the extremely low temperatures cause them to freeze. Freezing into semi-solid "mushballs" causes them to fall where they redistribute ammonia throughout the lower atmosphere.
How can we possibly know all of this?<p>Juno relies on several pieces of equipment. The most relevant in this case is the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave_Radiometer_(Juno)" target="_blank">microwave radiometer</a>. This device uses microwaves to measure the Jovian atmosphere's composition. When microwaves hit water or ammonia particles, they begin to heat up. By hitting the planet with microwaves and then looking for changes in the particles' observed temperature, the probe can determine what chemicals are present.</p><p>The findings of these studies demonstrate that Jupiter's atmosphere is more complicated than previously thought. Given how we already knew about the storms larger than <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Red_Spot" target="_blank">Earth</a>, temperatures that swing between extremes in different layers of the atmosphere, and winds that blow at 100 meters per <a href="http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/~showman/publications/ingersolletal-2004.pdf" target="_blank">second</a>, that is saying something.</p>
This exoplanet is 10 times hotter than any world we measured and shaped like a football.
- Astronomers study the exoplanet planet WASP-121b that's known as a "hot Jupiter."
- The planet is so hot, metals like iron and magnesium stream off its surface.
- The find is the latest accomplishment using the Hubble Space Telescope.
More on the accomplishments of the Hubble Space Telescope:<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8af9b91e77a1f653b2a5ffbcb818a62f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-nNiULl5_2k?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
A new computer model solves a pair of Jovian riddles.
- Astronomers have wondered how a gas giant like Jupiter could sit in the middle of our solar system's planets.
- Also unexplained has been the pair of asteroid clusters in front of and behind Jupiter in its orbit.
- Putting the two questions together revealed the answer to both.
Modeling history<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTMxNDk3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODc4NjA3N30.koGt1vUoN2VSOsRScJ_B8UnRCZK4LQcFYG0xUbUWlTs/img.jpg?width=980" id="839f3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="19bf62e4b6679f27b3942fc59c549844" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Jupiter, right in the middle of everything.
(Christos Georghiou/Shutterstock)<p>The model that lands Jupiter where it is today, along with its thousand of Trojans, begins four times further away from the Sun than Jupiter currently orbits, just inside of Uranus' orbit. Jupiter first took form about 4.5 billion years back as an icy planetary seedling, an ice asteroid, no bigger than Earth. Somewhere between two and three million years later, the future giant began spiraling slowly inward toward the Sun, pulled by gases circulating throughout the solar system. It took about 700,000 years to get where it is now. Along the way, before it developed its gaseous atmosphere and massive size, Jupiter's gravity pulled the Trojans in — the researchers expect Jupiter's core to be composed of materials similar to the Trojans. They're believed to be rich with <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982216313410" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1">dark carbon compounds</a>, and likely rich in water and other volatile materials beneath an outer layer of dust.</p>
Lucy in the sky with Trojans<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTMxNDk5My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyOTExMjA4MH0.Pk0uf75_KhddEEadiTW1DbSRYXL_DbD_tjY1y27ED4o/img.gif?width=980" id="d5406" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0ef4cb87da4761b500f6f2b935c5a3be" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Trojan clusters held in place by the Sun and Jupiter
(Astronomical Institute of CAS/Petr Scheirich)<p>In October 2021, NASA plans to launch its <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/lucy-the-first-mission-to-jupiter-s-trojans" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1">Lucy mission</a> to study the Trojans. It's believed that they're very old time capsules from the universe of four billion years ago. The craft will study seven of them: one from the solar system's <a href="http://astronomy.swin.edu.au/cosmos/m/main+asteroid+belt" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1">main asteroid belt</a>, and the remaining six from the clusters leading and following Jupiter in its orbit.</p><p>Those two Trojan groups are held in place at stable <a href="https://www.space.com/30302-lagrange-points.html" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1">LaGrange</a> points by the combined gravitation pull of the Sun and Jupiter acting together as a single centrifugal force acting upon them.</p><p>NASA has high hopes for the mission as chance to get a closeup look at the type of materials from which our planetary bodies formed.</p><p>Meanwhile, Jupiter's seeming a little bit less mysterious now, at least in terms of its origin. It may also be that ice giants Uranus and Neptune, as well as Saturn, have a similar history.</p>