Jun 12

New Way of Probing Exoplanet Atmospheres — Tau Boötis b revealed

Source: ESO Science Release eso1227

Artist’s impression of the exoplanet Tau Boötis b.
Image credits: ESO/L. Calçada

For the first time a clever new technique has allowed astronomers to study the atmosphere of an exoplanet in detail — even though it does not pass in front of its parent star. An international team has used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to directly catch the faint glow from the planet Tau Boötis b. They have studied the planet’s atmosphere and measured its orbit and mass precisely for the first time — in the process solving a 15-year old problem. Surprisingly, the team also finds that the planet’s atmosphere seems to be cooler higher up, the opposite of what was expected. The results were published in the 28 June 2012 issue of the journal Nature. (read more)

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