A truly incredible discovery deep in space could have huge implications for our understanding of how planets form.
Scientists are amazed at the discovery of a planet 880 light years away that appears to have a stratosphere, which is a layer in the atmosphere where the temperature keeps increasing as you get higher, and the finding may help astronomers eventually discover alien life on other exoplanets. This “hot Jupiter,” dubbed WASP-121b, was described in a study that was published recently in Nature, and a video depicting the planet is embedded at the bottom of this post.
The term “hot Jupiter” refers to planets that are huge and hot, making them a lot easier to study and enabling astronomers to test various theories. The latest finding is important because it confirms an important assumption by astronomers that hot gas giants outside of the Solar System can have a stratosphere.
WASP-121b is unbelievably huge at about twice hte size of our own Jupiter, which is the largest planet in the Solar System and many times the size of Earth. It is hot because it orbits very close to its host star, even closer than Mercury, which is the closest planet to the sun. As a result, WASP-121b temperatures soar to 4,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
“When it comes to distant exoplanets, which we can’t see in the same detail as other planets here in our own solar system, we have to rely on proxy techniques to reveal their structure,” said Drake Deming, a professor of astronomy at UMD and a co-author of the study. “The stratosphere of WASP-121b so hot it can make water vapor glow, which is the basis for our analysis.”