Many exoplanets are completely uninhabitable, but they can still be useful in the search for more hospitable worlds. Scientists at Lund University created a 3D map of the atmosphere of the ultra-hot gas giant WASP-189b that could provide insights into the skies of other distant planets. The team used a high-resolution spectrograph to study light from the host star as it passed through the planet’s atmosphere, looking for line positions in elements that not only indicated what materials were present, but rotated in three-dimensional layers.
The elements themselves included a breakthrough. This is the first time that observers have had solid evidence of titanium oxide in the atmosphere of a gas giant like this one. It also has chemicals known from the Jovian world, such as iron, chromium and magnesium.
You won’t be visiting WASP-189b anytime soon. Its daytime temperature rises to nearly 5,800F, and its 2.7-day orbit won’t help. However, the spectrographic techniques involved here could translate to other studies of exoplanet atmospheres. Researchers can compare atmospheres and better determine whether or not a planet can support life. That, in turn, could help focus studies on the most promising planets.
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