In a new find, researchers have discovered hot hydrogen atoms in the upper layer of Earth’s atmosphere known as thermosphere. Scientists consider it as an important discovery as it will change the current understanding of distribution of Hydrogen atoms in the atmosphere.
Hydrogen plays a very crucial role in governing the atmosphere of Earth and some study highly depend on the exact distribution of hydrogen in the atmosphere and wrong information can lead to large deviation from the true result.
The team of researchers from University of Illinois conducted the study and found that Hydrogen is lightest element present in the universe which also enables H atoms to easily travel against the gravity in the upward direction. This might also be the reason why Mars lost water after Hydrogen which makes two-third part of water escaped in the upper atmosphere.
“Hot H atoms had been theorized to exist at very high altitudes, above several thousand km, but our discovery that they exist as low as 250 km was truly surprising,” said Lara Waldrop, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and principle investigator of the project.
According to researchers, present models of physics and distribution of elements in atmosphere have some flaws. Earlier, researchers did not expect hot H atoms to be in thermosphere — an atmospheric layer which is directly above the mesosphere and below the exosphere, it extends from about 90 km (56 miles) to between 500 and 1,000 km (311 to 621 miles) above our planet.
“We know that there must be a source of hot H atoms, either in the local thermosphere or in more distant layers of the atmosphere, but we do not have a solid answer yet,” said Waldrop.
For the study, researchers analysed the data collected by the NASA’s TIMED satellite. Study authors calculated the scattering of solar photons in the upper layers of atmosphere. The researchers developed a model of the radiative transfer of the scattered emission along with a new analysis technique that incorporated a transition region between the lower and upper extents of the H distribution.
Study on a larger scale is required to confirm the origin and exact composition of hot H atoms in the atmosphere.
The study appeared in the journal Nature Communications.