WASP-121b - A Scorching Hot Atmosphere

What is the atmosphere of the hot-Jupiter Exoplanet Wasp-121b like? We know that for planets close to their parent stars, the temperature is very high and can heat and even dissipate atmospheres. For example, if the planetary atmosphere is retain

1766 Views | Published on 24th Aug, 2017

What is the atmosphere of the hot-Jupiter Exoplanet Wasp-121b like?

We know that for planets close to their parent stars, the temperature is very high and can heat and even dissipate atmospheres. For example, if the planetary atmosphere is retained and the starlight is able to penetrate deep into it, the gas is heated and radiated back into space as infrared light.

A different scenario can occur if there are cooler molecules at the top of the atmosphere- for example water vapor. In that case, the water vapor can prevent some radiation from getting back out and the water vapor starts to glow. A similar thing happens in the upper atmosphere of the Earth, but the molecule causing the heating is ozone. The layer which is hotter than the atmosphere below is called a stratosphere.

On Wasp-121b, evidenced through Hubble observations, there seems to be such a layer, and with a temperature rising about 560 degrees Celsius. Usually an atmosphere would be cooler with higher altitude. The exact molecules causing this on Wasp-121b are a bit of a mystery, but this object represents a particular class of "Hot Jupiters".

Join Tony Darnell and Carol Christian during Afternoon Astronomy Coffee on August 24, 2017 at 3PM Eastern (Daylight) Time as they discuss with Tom Evans (Exeter College), Tiffany Kataria (NASA JPL) and collaborators about this very hot Jupiter-type planet and the observations they made (and will make!) of this object.

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