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Atmospheric Water Possibly Hidden Beneath Clouds Of Hot Jupiters

First Posted: Jun 10, 2016 06:00 AM EDT

The astronomers have discovered that many hot Jupiters, which are a class of exoplanets, have water in their atmospheres possibly hidden beneath the clouds. On the other hand, some appear to have no water.

Science Daily reports that the recent study was printed in the Astrophysical Journal on June 1. The researchers at NASA's Jet propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California wanted to know what are the atmospheres of these hot Jupiters have in common.

Aishwarya Iyer, the lead author of the study and a JPL intern said that the motivation of their study was to perceive what these planets would be like if they were clustered together, and to know whether they share any atmospheric properties.

The study implies that the clouds or haze layers could be inhibiting the atmospheric water from being identified by space telescopes. According to the researchers, the clouds are not made of water, as the planets in this sample are too hot for water-based clouds.

The hot Jupiters' masses are the same to that of Jupiter. On the other hand, they are much closer to their parent star than Jupiter is to the sun. They can have burning 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,100 degrees Celsius). This means that any water they host would take the form of water vapor.

Iyer explained that the clouds or haze seem to be on almost every planet they studied. He added that one has to be careful to take haze or clouds into account, or else you could miscalculate the amount of water in an exoplanet's atmosphere by a factor of two.

The study involved a set of 19 hot Jupiters, in which the scientists have examined them. These were previously observed by Hubble too. They used the telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 and they identified water vapor in the atmospheres of 10 of these planets. On the other hand, there is no water on the other nine planets. They found out that for almost each planet they investigated, the haze or clouds were obstructing half of the atmosphere, on average.

Iyer said that in some of these planets, you can see water peering its head up over the haze or clouds, and there could still be more water below. The results of the study are important for figuring how planets form, according to the scientists.

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