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Different carbon isotopes have been discovered on an exoplanet for the first time

Different carbon isotopes have been discovered on an exoplanet for the first time

Astronomers have discovered different isotopes of carbon on an exoplanet for the first time

An international research team with the participation of the University of Geneva succeeded for the first time in discovering different carbon isotopes in the gaseous atmosphere of an exoplanet. As announced by the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg on WednesdayResearchers have detected an unusually high content of carbon-13 in the atmosphere of an exoplanet in the constellation Fly, about 300 light-years away. TYC 8998-760-1 b, a gas giant, is about 14 times the mass of Jupiter and nearly twice the size of Jupiter.

In order to learn about the isotopes, scientists analyzed the light that reaches us through this planet’s atmosphere when it passes through its orbit – as seen from Earth – in front of its sun. Different elements in the atmosphere absorb radiation of different colors. The same also applies to isotopes – therefore, the spectrum of light can be used to determine which isotopes occur in the atmosphere.

Researchers working with Yapeng Zhang of Leiden University in the Netherlands examined the spectrum of light with a “Very Large Telescope” from the European Space Agency (ESA) at Chile. of their results They write in the specialized magazine “Nature”..

According to their measurements, the carbon-13 isotope is present in the atmosphere of the distant gas giant at twice the rate of what occurs in our solar system. They concluded that the planet formed at a much greater distance from its parent star. It orbits at a distance of about 150 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun.

The background is the complex processes involved in the formation of planets. The team hypothesizes that carbon-13 may accumulate as carbon monoxide ice. However, this only freezes from a certain distance from the so-called protoplanetary dust and gas disks, which orbit young stars and later form their planetary systems.

According to the study authors, the planets of our solar system all appeared within this boundary, which is also known as the carbon dioxide snow line. This may explain that they collected much less ice that is high in carbon-13 than the large exoplanets.

By the way, this was discovered only two years ago – by Alexander Bonn, a doctoral student at Leiden University. Bohn is a member of the international research team that is now able to discover isotopes.

Artist’s impression of the gas giant TYC 8998-760-1b in the constellation Fly. picture: wikimedia

The discovery of isotopes is a milestone for astronomers because it represents a new way to learn about these distant exoplanets. Snellen races, a professor of astronomy at Leiden University, puts it this way:


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Khufu, the Swiss space telescope


Khufu, the Swiss space telescope

Coil: spl / atg medialab / european space age

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