Webb Telescope offers first glimpse of an exoplanet’s interior | Science & Technology

A surprisingly low amount of methane and a super-sized core hide within the cotton candy-like planet WASP-107 b.

The revelations, based on data obtained by the James Webb Space Telescope, mark the first measurements of an exoplanet’s core mass and will likely underpin future studies of planetary atmospheres and interiors, a key aspect in the search for habitable worlds beyond our solar system.

“Looking into the interior of a planet hundreds of light-years away sounds almost impossible, but when you know the mass, radius, atmospheric composition, and hotness of its interior, you’ve got all the pieces you need to get an idea of what’s inside and how heavy that core is,” said lead author David Sing, a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. “This is now something we can do for lots of different gas planets in various systems.”

Published today in Nature, the research shows the planet has a thousand times less methane than expected and a core 12 times more massive than Earth’s.

A giant planet wrapped by a scorching atmosphere as fluffy as cotton, WASP-107 b orbits a star about 200 light-years away. It is puffy because of its build: a Jupiter-sized world with only a tenth of that planet’s mass.

Even though it has methane — a building block of life on Earth — the planet is not considered habitable because of its proximity to its parent star and lack of a solid surface. But it could hold important clues about late-stage planetary evolution.

In a separate study published today in Nature, other scientists also spotted methane with the Webb telescope and provided similar insights about the planet’s size and density.

“We want to look at planets more similar to the gas giants in our own solar system, which have a lot of methane in their atmospheres,” Sing said. “This is where the story of WASP-107 b got really interesting, because we didn’t know why the methane levels were so low.”

The new methane measurements…

Source www.sciencedaily.com

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