The planet that boils at 1,000 degrees and smells like “rotten eggs”

The planet that boils at 1,000 degrees and smells like “rotten eggs”
The planet that boils at 1,000 degrees and smells like “rotten eggs”

Image source, Roberto Molar Candanosa/Johns Hopkins University

Caption, HD 189733 b is 64 light years from Earth. It rains crystals and has winds of more than 8,000 km per hour.
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  • Author, Writing
  • Role, BBC News World
  • 12 minutes

This planet outside the Solar System was already known for its hellish climate. But another of its characteristics has just been revealed: it stinks of rotten eggs.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University in the United States used data from the James Webb Space Telescope to study the exoplanet known as HD 189733 b, a gas giant the size of Jupiter.

The planet’s atmosphere has traces of hydrogen sulfidethe same molecule that gives a characteristic smell to both rotten eggs and flatulence in people.

So if your nose could function at 1,000°C… the atmosphere would smell like rotten eggs.“said Dr. Guangwei Fu, a Johns Hopkins astrophysicist who led the research.

HD 189733 b is just 64 light-years from Earth and is the closest “hot Jupiter” astronomers can observe passing in front of its star, making it a go-to planet for detailed studies of exoplanetary atmospheres since its discovery in 2005, Fu explained.

The exoplanet is about 13 times closer to its star than Mercury is to the Sun and takes about two Earth days to complete one orbit.

It has scorching temperatures of around 1,000 °C and a rain of crystals with winds of more than 8,000 km per hour.

“We are not looking for life”

The discovery of hydrogen sulfide on HD 189733 is one of the first detections of hydrogen sulfide on an exoplanet.

Although hydrogen sulfide is one of the gases that indicate that distant planets could host alien organisms, Researchers are not looking for life on this planet because it is a gas giant, like Jupiter, and too hot..

Finding hydrogen sulfide here, however, is a step toward understanding how planets form, researchers say.

“We’re not looking for life on this planet because it’s too hot, but finding hydrogen sulfide is a stepping stone to finding this molecule on other planets and better understanding how different types of planets form,” Fu said.

In addition to detecting hydrogen sulfide and measuring total sulfur in HD 189733 b’s atmosphere, the scientists measured the planet’s main sources of oxygen and carbon: water, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.

“Sulfur is a vital element for building more complex molecules, and like carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and phosphate, scientists need to study it further to understand how planets form and what they are made of,” Fu said.

Image source, Roberto Molar Candanosa/Johns Hopkins University

Caption, The exoplanet is too hot to support life.

The researchers also ruled out the presence of methane in HD 189733 b with unprecedented precision and They measured levels of heavy metals.

Less massive ice giant planets, such as Neptune and Uranus, contain more metals than are found in gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn, the largest planets in the solar system.

The increased presence of metals suggests that Neptune and Uranus accumulated more ice, rocks, and other heavy elements relative to gases such as hydrogen and helium during early periods of formation.

The scientists They want to determine whether this correlation is also valid for exoplanets.Fu explained.

“This Jupiter-mass planet is very close to Earth and has been very well studied. Now we have this new measurement to show that, in fact, the metal concentrations it has provide a very important point for studying how a planet’s composition varies with its mass and radius,” the scientist added.

Image source, NASA, ESA, CSA, Northrop Grumman

Caption, The James Webb Space Telescope has opened a new window into the analysis of the composition of exoplanets.

Revolutionary telescope

James Webb is opening a new window into the analysis of chemicals on distant planets, helping astronomers learn more about their origins.

It is really revolutionizing the field of astronomy.“It has delivered as promised and even exceeded our expectations in certain aspects,” said Dr. Fu.

In the coming months, Fu’s team plans to use the space telescope data to track sulfur on more exoplanets and figure out how high levels of the compound might influence how closely they form near their parent stars.

The study was published in the journal Nature


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