A Closer Look At The Atmosphere of a Unique Exoplanet That Shouldn’t Exist

Although some people might be tempted to say that there’s nothing too interesting in our cosmic neighborhood for several hundreds of light-years away, they’re totally wrong. At only 260 light-years away from us, a peculiar exoplanet known as LTT 9779b revolves around its host star.

Despite being about the same size as Neptune, LTT 9779b makes a full rotation around its star in only 19 hours. Another aspect of why the exoplanet stands out is that despite the obvious heat that surrounds the cosmic object, there’s a substantial atmosphere there. But thankfully, new studies plan to unravel the mystery of the unique characteristics of LTT 9779b.

The Spitzer Space Telescope enters the scene

The Spitzer Space Telescope collected infrared data about the peculiar exoplanet and its host star. There were scientists involved from the University of Kansas and the University of New Mexico. Astronomer Ian Crossfield, one of the lead authors, said:

“For the first time, we measured the light coming from this planet that shouldn’t exist,

“This planet is so intensely irradiated by its star that its temperature is over 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit [1,650 degrees Celsius] and its atmosphere could have evaporated entirely. Yet, our Spitzer observations show us its atmosphere via the infrared light the planet emits.”

The scientists could find out the exoplanet’s temperature by studying the object’s phase curve in infrared light, and it’s understandable why. Thermal energy appears as infrared radiation, which means that light in that wavelength can reveal the temperature.

Scientists also suspect that there are dayside clouds on the atmosphere of LTT 9779b due to the fact that the planet is actually cooler than expected. The exoplanet should be reflecting away a lot of the starlight that hits it.

But the mystery is far from over, as another official statement says:

“The planet also doesn’t transport much heat to its nightside, but we think we understand that: The starlight that is absorbed is likely absorbed high in the atmosphere, from whence the energy is quickly radiated back to space.”

The new findings were published in the Astrophysical Journal.