Evidence of Clouds and Water Vapor Found on Distant Exoplanet
Astronomers have been analyzing the atmosphere of a Neptune-sized planet located 430 light years away.
Known as HAT-P-26b, this distant, tidally locked world, which has been referred to as a “warm Neptune” by scientists, was observed using NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes.
The atmosphere is thought to be dominated by hydrogen and helium to a much greater extent than its nearby counterparts, Uranus and Neptune, while evidence of water vapor and ‘exotic’ clouds composed of disodium sulfide have also been found.
The planet is situated very close to its host star and completes an orbit every 4.2 Earth days.
“This exciting new discovery shows that there is a lot more diversity in the atmospheres of these exoplanets than we have previously thought,” said astrophysicist David Sing.
“This ‘warm Neptune’ is a much smaller planet than those we have been able to characterize in depth, so this new discovery about its atmosphere feels like a big breakthrough in our pursuit to learn more about how solar systems are formed, and how it compares to our own.”