In an astonishing find, scientists of NASA have successfully discovered a death planet present in our solar system. The name of the death planet is WASP-18b. As per the reports, the WASP 18b was discovered in the year 2009 by a team led by Coel Hellier, a professor of astrophysics at Keele University. Since then the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes have been gathering data about WASP 18b, and recently after analyzing those data, NASA scientists found some interesting and unusual features of the exoplanet.
They discovered that the stratosphere of the massive planet WASP 18b is devoid of water and is loaded with carbon monoxide thus making the most hostile and smothering stratosphere ever found on an exoplanet. As there is presence of a large amount of carbon monoxide, so there is no chance of possibility of life, at least for humans, on WASP 18b, so it is called death planet.
The lead author of the study, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said that the composition of WASP-18b defied all expectations. “We don’t know of any other extrasolar planet where carbon monoxide so completely dominates the upper atmosphere,” stated Sheppard. According to the scientists, usually, the stratosphere of the most of the exoplanets contain sunscreen like molecules like titanium oxide which absorbs UV and visible radiation coming out from the parent star and then dissipate that energy as heat.
Our Earth also has ozone layer that absorbs the UV in the stratosphere and protects us from harmful radiations of Sun. But, in case of WASP 18b, the stratospheric scenario is completely different. It has some unusual composition with an abundance of carbon monoxide. This suggests that WASP-18b, which is almost 10 times the mass of Jupiter, might have a different type of formation procedure as compared to other gas giants. For the study, the researchers analyzed the five eclipses of WASP-18b from archived Hubble data and two from Spitzer Space Telescope.
By studying the light emitted by the atmosphere of the massive exoplanet at infrared wavelengths, they were able to detect the spectral fingerprints of water and some other vital molecules. The researchers then figured out that WASP 18b has a very peculiar fingerprint which not found in any of the other exoplanets studied so far.
After analyzing the data collected from extensive computer modeling, Nikku Madhusudhan a co-author of the study from the University of Cambridge said that the only consistent explanation for the data was an overabundance of Carbon Monoxide and very little water vapor in the atmosphere of WASP-18b, in addition to the presence of a stratosphere. “This rare combination of factors opens a new window into our understanding of physicochemical processes in exoplanetary atmospheres,” he added. The WASP-18b orbits very close to its host star and is 325 light-years away from Earth. The latest study was published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.