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- Evidence of water vapor discovered on an exoplanet ten times the size of Jupiter
- The exoplanet's atmosphere shows remarkable temperature variations
- Discovery opens the potential for understanding the formation of such unusual planets
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has successfully detected water vapor in the atmosphere of a unique exoplanet named WASP-18 b, located hundreds of light-years away.
This gas giant, discovered by NASA back in 2009, is notable for its massive size, being ten times bigger than Jupiter.
WASP-18 b is also interesting due to its locked orbital configuration, with one side constantly facing its star while the other remains perpetually in the dark.
Scientists mapped the temperature of the exoplanet's atmosphere, unveiling startling temperature differences of up to 1,000 degrees between the hottest and coolest points. This temperature variation suggests an obstruction in the efficient redistribution of heat, possibly due to a strong magnetic field.
Water found, despite the heat
Despite some parts of the planet reaching a blistering 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2760 degrees Celsius), the Webb telescope identified "multiple small but precisely measured water features" in various locations. This discovery was challenging due to the subtle nature of the water features and the extreme conditions present on the planet.
The detection of water vapor on WASP-18 b provides scientists with a unique opportunity to study and understand the formation of such exotic planets. By studying WASP-18 b's atmospheric composition, researchers can draw inferences about the planet's origin and its similarity with its star's formation, providing valuable insights into the evolution of celestial bodies.
News tips: Thomas Ahlström