Astronomers detect water in Neptune-sized exoplanet’s atmosphere

Astronomers detect water in Neptune-sized exoplanet’s atmosphere

Astronomers have detected lots of water in the atmosphere of HAT-P-26b, a Neptune-sized exoplanet that is located far outside of our solar system.

Discovered in 2011 and orbiting a sun that is twice as old as our own host star, HAT-P-26b is equivalent in size as Neptune, which has a hydrogen-helium atmosphere. However the exoplanet is warmer than Neptune as it orbits its host star more closely than Neptune does.

The U.S. space agency said, “HAT-P-26b’s atmosphere is relatively clear of clouds and has a strong water signature, although the planet is not a water world. This is the best measurement of water to date on an exoplanet of this size.”

It is one of a few times that astronomers have been able to discover water in the atmosphere of a planet outside of our solar system of this size and mass.

Astrophysics Prof. David Sing of the University of Exeter in the U.K., who co-led the study, said that HAT-P-26b is a much smaller exoplanet than those that researchers had been able to characterize in depth.

The discovery of water in the atmosphere of HAT-P-26b was detailed in the most recent edition of the journal Science.

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