Hubble Space Telescope Current Affairs

Astronomers found WASP-121b exoplanet with glowing water atmosphere

Astronomer’s using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have found that exoplanet WASP-121b which provides strongest evidence about existence of a stratosphere on it along with glowing water molecules.

The stratosphere is a layer of atmosphere in which temperature increases with higher altitudes.

Key Facts

Scientists had used spectroscopy in order to study the exoplanet’s stratosphere and to analyse how the planet’s brightness changed at different wavelengths of light. The discovery shows common trait of most of the atmospheres in our solar system, which is a warm stratosphere and can also be found in the atmospheres of exoplanets. This phenomenon can be compared with the same processes that happen under different sets of conditions in our own solar system.

About WASP-121b exoplanet

The WASP-121b exoplanet is gas giant commonly referred to as a ‘hot Jupiter’. It has 1.2 times greater mass and 1.9 times greater radius than Jupiter. It is located approximately 900 light years from Earth. It orbits around its host star every 1.3 days in very close proximity.

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Astrosat, Chandra and Hubble jointly detect massive cosmic explosion on Proxima Centauri

India’s first dedicated space observatory AstroSat along with other space and earth-based observatories have detected a massive coronal explosion on Proxima Centauri, sun’s closest star neighbour.

The explosion was detected as part of joint multi-wavelength simultaneous observational campaign undertaken by three space-based observatories, Astrosat, Chandra and Hubble Space Telescope and the ground-based High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) observatory.

Proxima Centauri

It is group of stars which hosts an Earth-like habitable planet — Proxima Centaur b — orbiting within (Proxima Centauri) its habitable zone. It is a cool dwarf star located around 4.25 light years away from the Earth. It was discovered in 2016.

Key Facts

The massive coronal explosion has sent out powerful solar flare having energy of 10-raised-to-30 ergs, about 100 times a typical solar flare. Such powerful flaring may have produced large radiations and particles which may significantly influence the atmosphere of the Proxima Centauri b and affect its habitability.

The habitability of Proxima Centauri especially its ability to sustain its atmosphere and in particular to sustain water in liquid form may get affected due to abnormal planetary atmosphere heating due absorption of  the high-energy photons like the ultraviolet (UV) and X-ray photons released by the coronal explosion.

If such a massive flare occurs in our Sun, it might have a devastating effect on power grids, interrupt broadcasts and electricity, affect electronic instruments, and cause excess UV radiation in space.

Coronal explosion: is an unusually large release of plasma and magnetic field from the solar corona. They often follow solar flares and are normally present during a solar prominence eruption. The plasma is released into the solar wind, and can be observed in coronagraph imagery.

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