Imagine an exoplanet located 700 light-years away from Earth. To put things in perspective, one light-year is a distance covered by light in a year i.e. 9.5 trillion kilometers times 700 (the distance of the discovered exoplanet) which gives a staggering number when calculated. National Aeronautics Space Agency (NASA) discovered an exoplanet located 700 light-years away which has water more than three times than on the ringed Saturn planet. As per NASA, the exoplanet WASP-39b has a mass similar to Saturn’s but there is three times more water present on the surface as per data captured by NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes.
The newly discovered exoplanet named WASP-39b revolves around its star called WASP-39. It is often dubbed as ‘hot Saturn’ due to its immense temperature that rises to over 776.7 degree Celsius. Astronomers at NASA used both Spitzer and Hubble space telescope to locate this exoplanet which is situated in the constellation of Virgo. The planet WASP-39b orbits around its parent star WASP-39 every four days. It is 20 times closer to the star compared to the distance between Earth and the Sun which is calculated as 1 Astronomical Unit (AU). NASA published its findings on its website where it stated that the newly found planet is tidally locked to its parent star. That means it rotates around the star showing the same face to its star which has resulted in an extreme temperature of 1,430 degrees Fahrenheit or 776.7 degrees Celsius. The night-side of the planet heats up to an equivalent temperature as its day-time due to the powerful winds that flow around the planet transporting heat to the night-side thereby escalating the temperature.
Astronomers used starlight filtering technique to distinguish the atmosphere of the planet into its component color which depicts the chemical composition of the exoplanet’. Although astronomers had already predicted that WASP-39b host water in some quantity but the data collected revealed that it contains more than three times the water contained by our neighbor planet Saturn. By studying the chemical composition of a planet, astronomers can examine the different ways of how planet come into existence and evolve.
Now, astronomers are waiting for the NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to launch in 2019 that will capture data using its array of instruments and a 6.5m primary mirror capable of registering large infrared wavelengths. JWST will be able to provide a much fine and greater detailed images and data of WASP-39b and other exoplanets in the universe. Presently, the Spitzer Space Telescope is managed by NASA’s JPL while the Hubble Space Telescope is handled by NASA and ESA in an international partnership project.