Helium has been detected in the atmosphere of an extrasolar planet
A large, swollen planet orbiting around theol of a small, bright star in the constellation Virgo contains helium, whichory leaks into space. This is the first detection of helium on a planet outside the solar system after more than 10 years of searching.
– It is likely that many similar planets exist, so our work opens up new possibilities for studying the atmosphere surrounding distant worlds – Said Jessica Spake of the University of Exeter, coohe author of the article, whoory appeared in „Nature”.
– Helium is the second most common element in the Universe. Right after hydrogen. There’s also a headoThe element helium is an essential component of Jupiter and Saturn in our solar system. However, so far no helium has been detected on extrasolar planets – explained Spake.
Teamol made the discovery by analyzing the infrared spectrum of the atmosphere of WASP-107b. Previous analyses of the extended atmospheres of exoplanets have been carried out by studying the spectrum of waves in the ultraviolet and optical ranges. The astronomer’s workow under the direction of Spake proves that the atmospheres of exoplanets can be studied roAlso at longer wavelengths.
Researchers stumbled upon helium on exoplanet WASP-107b by accident. They were looking for methane in the atmosphere of this planet 200 light years away from Earth. It is roughly the size of Jupiter, but has a much smaller mass reaching only one osmej of its mass, making it a planet with one of the lowest densities. Without strong gravitational pull, planet’s gases can stretch tens of thousands of kilometersoin space.
Scientists recorded the planet’s transit against the background of its parent star last May. As soon as they took the data, they saw a huge jump in the star’s light spectrum, at near-infrared wavelengths. They initially wondered whichoy element could represent this, but eventually concluded that it must be helium.
Helium is difficult to see in its normal form, but the combination of its swollen atmosphere and tight orbit – WASP-107b orbits its star in less than six days – allows the star’s radiation to sink the helium into a metastable state that theory is much easier to detect.
As the helium signature appears at infrared wavelengths, ktore not absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere, can be studied by ground-based telescopes and satellites. – This observation paves the way for a new area of research on extrasolar planets – said Sara Seager of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
– The strong signature of helium, ktohe helium we observed proves that our technique for studying gorne layers of the atmosphere can also be used for other planets. Current methods based on ultraviolet radiation are limited to the closest extrasolar planets to us. New technique will allow us to detect atmospheres aroundol other Earth-sized exoplanets – explained Spake.
WASP-107b is the fourth exoplanet, and the first in its size class, with ktorej escapes the atmosphere. Models suggest that the planet’s atmosphere is actually shrinking each year, perhaps forming a helium-like tailoin comets. Atmosphere loss can be as high as 4 percent. per billion years.