Stench of a gas giant? Nearby exoplanet reeks of rotten eggs, and that’s a good thing | Science & Technology

An exoplanet infamous for its deadly weather has been hiding another bizarre feature — it reeks of rotten eggs, according to a new Johns Hopkins University study of data from the James Webb Space Telescope.

The atmosphere of HD 189733 b, a Jupiter-sized gas giant, has trace amounts of hydrogen sulfide, a molecule that not only gives off a stench but also offers scientists new clues about how sulfur, a building block of planets, might influence the insides and atmospheres of gas worlds beyond the solar system.

The findings are published today in Nature.

“Hydrogen sulfide is a major molecule that we didn’t know was there. We predicted it would be, and we know it’s in Jupiter, but we hadn’t really detected it outside the solar system,” said Guangwei Fu, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins who led the research. “We’re not looking for life on this planet because it’s way too hot, but finding hydrogen sulfide is a stepping stone for finding this molecule on other planets and gaining more understanding of how different types of planets form.”

In addition to detecting hydrogen sulfide and measuring overall sulfur in HD 189733 b’s atmosphere, Fu’s team precisely measured the main sources of the planet’s oxygen and carbon — water, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide.

“Sulfur is a vital element for building more complex molecules, and — like carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and phosphate — scientists need to study it more to fully understand how planets are made and what they’re made of,” Fu said.

At only 64 light-years from Earth, HD 189733 b is the nearest “hot Jupiter” astronomers can observe passing in front of its star, making it a benchmark planet for detailed studies of exoplanetary atmospheres since its discovery in 2005, Fu said.

The planet is about 13 times closer to its star than Mercury is to the sun and takes only about two Earth days to complete an orbit. It has scorching temperatures of 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit and is notorious for vicious weather, including…

Source www.sciencedaily.com

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