Clouds On Hot Jupiter-Like Exoplanets May Hide Atmospheric Water

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

The presence of clouds and haze mask the presence of atmospheric water on exoplanets akin to a hot Jupiter, as per a new study. Incidentally, hot Jupiter exoplanets have a similar mass like Jupiter. However, the extrasolar planets can attain temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which means if there is any water present in the atmosphere; it would be in vapor form. Researchers are of the opinion that clouds enveloping the planets could be blocking the view of its water.

Astronomers from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) reportedly studied a group of hot Jupiters with the Hubble Telescope, and discovered that more than half of these exoplanets were obstructed by clouds or haze. The layers acted as obstacles that prevented space telescopes from finding a significant amount of atmospheric water.

"The motivation of our study was to see what these planets would be like if they were grouped together, and to see whether they share any atmospheric properties," said Aishwarya Iyer, intern with JPL. "Haze or cloud seems to be on almost every planet we studied. You have to be careful to take haze or clouds into account, or else you could underestimate the amount of water in an exoplanet's atmosphere by a factor or two". 19 hot Jupiters were analyzed; out of which water vapor was detected in the atmosphere of 10 and nine were thought to have none. The scientists then studied the data further to look for patterns.

According to the researching team, the presence of the clouds indicates that water could be hiding below, which could subsequently throw light on the origin of the hot Jupiter exoplanets, by analyzing the large quantity of molecules which exist due to water.  Therefore, as per reports, the scientists feel that the research is a positive step forward for the future study of extrasolar planets and the comparison of their properties.

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