Extreme ‘ultra-hot’ Jupiter-like exoplanet where temperatures reach 5,760°F has a layered atmosphere that’s surprisingly similar to Earth’s, study reveals

An extreme ‘ultra-hot’ Jupiter-like exoplanet where temperatures reach 5,760°F (3,200°C) has a layered atmosphere surprisingly similar to Earth’s, a study reveals.

Experts in Sweden and Switzerland have discovered more about the ‘complex and exotic atmosphere’ of exoplanet WASP-189b, using high-resolution spectroscopy.

The gas giant, located 322 light years from Earth, was discovered orbiting its bright host star HD 133112 by the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) project in 2018.

Now, experts reveal WASP-189b’s atmosphere contains ‘an exotic cocktail’ of titanium oxide, iron, titanium, chromium, vanadium, magnesium and manganese.

WASP-189b has previously been described as one of the ‘most extreme planets in the universe’ as it has surface temperatures hot enough to vaporise iron.

More than one and a half times as large as Jupiter, WASP-189b is 20 times closer to its host star than Earth is to our Sun.

Because the planet is so close to its host star, a year lasts just 2.7 days.

Despite its far out characteristics, the researchers compare WASP-189b’s atmosphere to that of Earth – at least in terms of its atmospheric layers.

The atmosphere of Earth is not a uniform envelope but consists of distinct layers that each have characteristic properties.

Earth’s troposphere – the lowest layer that spans from sea level beyond the highest mountain peaks – contains most of the water vapour and is therefore the layer in which most weather phenomena occur.

The layer above it – the stratosphere – is the one that contains the famous ozone layer that shields us from the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation.

In their new study, published in Nature Astronomy, the researchers show for the first time that the atmosphere of WASP-189b may have similarly distinct layers – albeit with very different chemical characteristics.

The team used the HARPS spectrograph at the La Silla Observatory in Chile to analyse WASP-189b’s atmosphere in great detail.

‘We measured the light coming from the planet’s host star and passing through the planet’s atmosphere,’ said study author Dr Bibiana Prinoth at Lund University.

‘The gases in its atmosphere absorb some of the starlight, similar to ozone absorbing some of the sunlight in Earth’s atmosphere, and thereby leave their characteristic “fingerprint”.

‘With the help of HARPS, we were able to identify the corresponding substances.’

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