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Presence of Water Molecules Detected in Hot Jupiter 51 Pegasi B

Feb 02, 2017 08:19 AM EST
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Astronomers detected water molecules in the atmosphere of hot Jupiter 51 Pegasi b.
(Photo : NASA/Getty Images)

The never-ending search for life outside the Earth led astronomers to the discovery of what appears to be water molecules in the atmosphere of hot Jupiter Pegasi b.

The presence of water could mean that is a possibility of thriving or ancient microorganisms. This is the reason why the discovery of water molecules is a ray of hope for astronomers.

The hot Jupiter 51 Pegasi b is categorized as an exoplanet, and the water molecules were discovered in its atmosphere. Pegasi b is located 50 light-years away from Earth. The object was considered as a hot Jupiter, a type of exoplanet, due to the fact that its orbit only last for 10 days and has similarities with the biggest planet in the Solar System, Jupiter. The exoplanet orbits its parent star called Pegasi.

Jayne Birky led the team of astronomers that studied 51 Pegasi b. The team used the Cryogenic high-resolution Infrared Echelle Spectrograph (CRISES) to observe the exoplanet. The study was also conducted with the help of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) located in Chile. To come up with the finding and to discover water molecules, the astronomers captured a total of 42 spectra to analyze the radial-velocity shift from the atmosphere.

"We have presented a 5,6σ detection of water molecules in the atmosphere of the original hot Jupiter, 51 Peg b, providing the first confirmation that the 51 Peg Ab system is a double-lined spectroscopic binary," the astronomers said in a statement.

The Cornell University published the findings last Jan. 25. Aside from water molecules, the study also presented new data about the hot Jupiter.

"The detection is pretty rock solid," team member Matteo Brogi, at the University of Colorado, Boulder said in a statement. "We think that's probably going to be our best chance for looking at the atmosphere of Proxima b."

The astronomers want to explore Proxima, a potentially habitable planet discovered in Alpha Centauri, using the same technique applied to 51 Pegasi b. The study is also instrumental in paving the way for the detection of water vapor or water molecules in smaller exoplanets and in potentially habitable planets in the future.

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