February 25, 2014
A planet the size of Jupiter outside our solar system contains water, a new study suggests.
The findings, published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, describes how a new technique detected water on a planet orbiting the nearby star, Tau Boötis. While water has been detected on a handful of other planets, this study is the first to use the radial velocity technique, which allowed researches to study the molecules that make up the planet’s atmosphere.
“Planets like [Tau Boötis b], which are as massive as Jupiter but much hotter, do not exist in our solar system. Our detection of water in the atmosphere of Tau Boötis b is important because it helps us understand how these exotic hot-Jupiter planets form and evolve. It also demonstrates the effectiveness of our new technique, which detects the infrared radiation in the atmospheres of these planets,” Chad Bender, a research associate in the Penn State Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and a co-author of the paper, said in a statement.