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Khufu discovers a light phenomenon on an exoplanet

Khufu discovers a light phenomenon on an exoplanet


Keystone SDA | Friday, April 5, 2024

The Swiss Cheops Space Telescope discovered a type of rainbow on a planet 637 light-years away. This discovery of so-called glory may be the first evidence of this phenomenon outside our solar system.

However, further investigations are still needed to confirm whether the observation on the planet “WASP-76b” was truly feasible, as the University of Geneva announced on Friday. The researchers presented the discovery in a study published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Glory is a rainbow-like, halo-like scattering of light. This occurs when light passes through perfectly uniform droplets and is reflected. In the case of Earth, the droplets are made of water.

Drops of iron?

However, the university said the nature of these droplets on WASP-76b remains a mystery. It could be iron, as it has already been discovered on the planet's surface.

“The reason why such glory has not been observed outside our solar system is that this phenomenon requires very specific conditions,” lead author Olivier Demanjon explained in communication. First, the droplets must be almost perfectly spherical, completely uniform, and stable enough to be observed over a long period of time. In addition, these droplets must be directly illuminated by the planet's star, and the observer – in this case the Cheops Space Telescope – must be in the right place.

2400 degrees hot

The University of Geneva said that discovering such small phenomena at such large distances will enable scientists to identify other phenomena that are no less important. For example, the reflection of starlight off liquid lakes and oceans is a necessary condition for habitation.

The planet “WASP-76b” has been subjected to careful examination by astronomers since its discovery in 2013. It was found that the gas giant lives in harsh conditions with iron rain and temperatures reaching 2,400 degrees Celsius. Chemical elements that would form rocks on Earth melt and evaporate there before condensing on the slightly cooler night side and forming clouds.