For the first time, researchers at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have found that an exoplanet named WASP-19b contains titanium oxide in its atmosphere.
The observation, which was made by ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), also offers a unique look into the composition of WASP-19b’s atmosphere, including its pressure and temperature makeup.
According to a report by Futurism, WASP-19b is a planet that is classified as “Hot Jupiter”. It is about 1,000 light years away from the Earth. Although the planet is as big as Jupiter it completes an orbit in just 19 days as it is so close to its parent star.
It’s close proximity to the star makes it a really hot planet. According to reports, the atmospheric temperature of the planet is around 2,000 Celsius.
Researchers were able to detect the titanium oxide by studying the light that gets through the planet’s atmosphere, says the report. Rarely seen on Earth, titanium oxide is normally found in atmospheres of cool stars.
The report points out that in the atmospheres of a hot planet like WASP-19b, titanium oxide absorbs heat. Interestingly, if enough titanium oxide is in an atmosphere, the planet might face thermal inversion as it will prevent heat from escaping or entering.
Scientists also found that apart for titanium oxide Wasp-19b’s atmosphere contains sodium and water.
The findings of Wasp-19b’s atmosphere comes after a whole year of collecting data and comparing observations.
“Detecting such molecules is, however, no simple feat,” explains Elyar Sedaghati, ESO student working on this project. “Not only do we need data of exceptional quality, but we also need to perform a sophisticated analysis. We used an algorithm that explores many millions of spectra spanning a wide range of chemical compositions, temperatures, and cloud or haze properties in order to draw our conclusions.”
These same methods are used to study the makeup and composition of other planets as well and detecting metals and other compounds are one way to develop improved models of exoplanet atmospheres, says the ESO.
As of July 2017, astronomers have identified over 3,500 exoplanets of which there are only around 300 Earth-like planets.
According to reports, life in those planets could exist on a microbial level, in oceans or even buried under the surface of these planets.