Astronomers have found “cloudy Super-Worlds” with the help of NASA’s Hubble. They are of opinion that there could be more clouds around there.
Astronomers studied these planets, namely GJ 436b and GJ 1214b, in our Milky Way with the help of NASA’s Hubble space telescope. They found layers of clouds on these planets inhibiting further research about the atmospheres of the planets.
GJ 436b is present about 36 light-years from Earth in the constellation Leo. It is categorized as a “warm Neptune” due to its closeness to its star and its size comparable to that planet.
“Either this planet has a high cloud layer obscuring the view, or it has a cloud-free atmosphere that is deficient in hydrogen, which would make it very unlike Neptune,” said Heather Knutson of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. “Instead of hydrogen, it could have relatively large amounts of heavier molecules such as water vapor, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide, which would compress the atmosphere and make it hard for us to detect any chemical signatures.”
GJ 1214b is present about 40 light-years away in the constellation Ophiuchus and is categorized as “super-Earth” because of its size. Scientists have found that this planet’s atmosphere has been dominated by water vapor or hydrogen, with high-altitude clouds.
Astronomers think this discovery is important in characterizing Earth-like worlds that are habitable outside of our solar system.
“Both planets are telling us something about the diversity of planet types that occur outside of our own solar system; in this case we are discovering we may not know them as well as we thought,” said Knutson. “We’d really like to determine the size at which these planets transition from looking like mini-gas giants to something more like a water world or a rocky, scaled-up version of the Earth. Both of these observations are fundamentally trying to answer that question.”
NASA’s Hubble Sees Cloudy Super-Worlds With Chance for More Clouds – NASA (http://goo.gl/xy2AYS)
Heather A. Knutson et al. (2014). A featureless transmission spectrum for the Neptune-mass exoplanet GJ 436b Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature12887
Laura Kreidberg et al. (2014). Clouds in the atmosphere of the super-Earth exoplanet GJ 1214b Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature12888