Exoplanet WASP-31b shows signs of weather

(ORDO NEWS) — One of the properties that make a planet suitable for life is the existence of weather on it. Exoplanets are too far away from us for these details to be observed directly, but astronomers can find substances in the planet’s atmosphere that make weather possible. In the new work, the researchers found signs of the presence of chromium hydride on the exoplanet WASP-31b, which, at appropriate temperatures and pressures, can change from a liquid to a gaseous state and vice versa.

In this work, a team led by Marrick Braam and colleagues found, by analyzing data collected with the Hubble Space Telescope, indications of the presence of chromium hydride (CrH) in the atmosphere of exoplanet WASP-31b. This planet is a hot Jupiter with a temperature of about 1200 degrees Celsius in the twilight zone, on the border between the day and night sides of the planet – a place in the atmosphere through which the light of the planet’s parent star passes on its way to Earth. And this happens at about the same temperature at which chromium hydride passes from a liquid to a gaseous state at the appropriate pressure in the outer layers of the planet’s atmosphere – similar to the conditions for the existence of water on the Earth’s surface.

“Chromium hydride can play a role in shaping the weather on this planet, including clouds and rain,” Braam said.

In this study, chromium hydride was first detected on hot Jupiter, where conditions permit the existence of this compound in both liquid and gaseous forms.

“It should be added that we were only able to find signs of chromium hydride with the Hubble Space Telescope (Hubble). We did not find such indications in the data collected with the VLT ground observatory. We have some thoughts about these discrepancies, but for now we prefer to talk about this finding only as a possible one and requires further confirmation. ”

Going forward, Braham and his team also plan to observe signs of chromium hydride on other planets with the new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) currently under construction, which is slated to launch later this year.

The research is published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

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