A team of researchers from the University of Exeter found an interesting exoplanet that exhibited some remarkable properties. WASP-96b, also called Hot Saturn, had an impressive concentration of sodium in its atmosphere. This means this atmosphere was completely cloudless, as the chemical elements is present in such big concentrations only when there are no clouds around.
Hot Saturn has plenty of sodium in its atmosphere
Soon after the discovery of Hot Saturn, researchers decided it was time to give it a better study. When the exoplanet passed in front of its governing star, they used the Very Large Telescope in Chile to look at it. As the exoplanet performed its journey near the star, they measured the changes it produced in the starlight. This way, they could make up the composition of its atmosphere.
They did this by measuring the spectrum of the atmosphere. Each particle exhibits its own spectral properties, so it’s relatively easy to identify the chemical elements that issue them. This way, they found the prevalent element in the atmosphere was sodium. Since they could observe it in such big concentrations, researchers found out the atmosphere of Hot Saturn was cloudless.
This caused the exoplanet to have a completely cloudless atmosphere
This discovery is quite remarkable. For a long time, researchers have been arguing that hot giants with gaseous atmospheres must have sodium in their composition. However, from all planets similar to our Hot Saturn, this is the only one that has absolutely no clouds. Also, researchers explained why sodium has been so difficult to spot.
Usually, this chemical element appears only in the atmospheric depths of a planet if it’s not completely missing. Since most of them have clouds, it’s hard to spot. In Hot Saturn’s case, sodium is so abundant that it prevented the formation of clouds. This research has opened many other possibilities of study, such as the chemical composition of clouds in gas giants of various temperatures.
The study was published in the journal Nature.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
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