Giant exoplanet with glowing water atmosphere discovered

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WASHINGTON: Scientists have for the first time discovered glowing water molecules in the atmosphere of a giant Jupiter-like planet located 900 light years from Earth that is hot enough to boil iron.

This is the first evidence of an exoplanet stratosphere – the layer of atmosphere where temperature increases with higher altitudes.

Previous research spanning the past decade has indicated possible evidence for stratospheres on other exoplanets.

The atmosphere WASP-121b – a gas giant exoplanet commonly referred to as a “hot Jupiter” – was observed using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

“When it comes to distant exoplanets, which we can’t see in the same detail as other planets here in our own solar system, we have to rely on proxy techniques to reveal their structure,” said Drake Deming, a professor at University of Maryland in the US.

“The stratosphere of WASP-121b so hot it can make water vapour glow, which is the basis for our analysis,” said Deming.

To study the gas giant’s stratosphere, scientists used spectroscopy to analyse how the planet’s brightness changed at different wavelengths of light.

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