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Astronomers Confirm a Hot and Steamy Exoplanet

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the water-the-chances dept.

Space 66

The Bad Astronomer writes "The extrasolar planet GJ 1214b was discovered in 2009 orbiting a nearby (40 light year distant) red dwarf star. The planet was quickly found to have a thick atmosphere, but it wasn't known at the time if the composition was water vapor or a hazy shroud of particulates. New Hubble observations confirm the atmosphere of the exoplanet is rich in water, comprising up to 50% of the atmosphere's mass (PDF). At 230 degrees Celsius, this means the planet is shrouded in steam."

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My ex... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39123011)

was a hot and steamy exoplanet.

Re:My ex... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39123063)

That's because she's your ex. When you were with her she was as big as a planet.

Thank you, thank you. I'll be kicked off stage now.

Re:My ex... (1)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123403)

Did you keep her number?

Re:My ex... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39123593)

Did you keep her number?

GJ1-214b, but she's blocked me now that she gotten all popular.

What about the poles? (5, Funny)

fezzzz (1774514) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123031)

I wonder what the water temperature at this planet's poles are

Re:What about the poles? (2)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123087)

Well, it's 75 times closer to the star than us so the starlight comes from a wider angle plus a steam atmosphere sounds like a pretty good heat conductor so I doubt it's all that different. But if it's tidally locked, the dark side of the planet could be interesting...

Re:What about the poles? (3, Informative)

Darfeld (1147131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123369)

75 times closer to a Star five times smaller than the sun. I'm not gonna do the math if it's more complex than the apparent 5/4 ratio but it's important to consider the size of the Star if you're gonna talk about wide angle. And there might be a matter of brightness of the star too.

Anyway, the planet apparently does get more light, since its temperature is about 200C

Re:What about the poles? (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 2 years ago | (#39126977)

steam atmosphere sounds like a pretty good heat conductor

Conductor? Water vapor is actually a good insulator. On earth water vapor is the largest contributor to the greenhouse effect.

Re:What about the poles? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39130033)

Water vapor has about the same thermal conductivity air. Greenhouse effect is not due to thermal conductivity at all, but due to radiative heat transfer and the properties of absorptivity/emissivity.

Re:What about the poles? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39130595)

Conductor? Water vapor is actually a good insulator.

What parent poster probably meant was that given the planets' proximity to its host star and its abundance in water, the intense heat and radiation from the star heats up water on the planet and creates a planetary heat bath system [wikipedia.org] , maintaining high water vapor temperatures all around the planet. Since water is, as you remarked, "actually a good insulator", that would mean that the water vapor retains its heat and potential weather patterns may circulate it around the planet at timescales much larger than its own diurnal cycle, resulting in hot water vapour being found in otherwise cold areas, much like it happens with other gases in the atmosphere of Venus [wikipedia.org]

But you already knew that. You just couldn't resist letting out your internal grammar Nazi. Anyway, thank you for giving me this opportunity to treat you like an idiot.

Re:What about the poles? (3, Funny)

CSMoran (1577071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123091)

What about the poles?

They haven't got there yet.

Re:What about the poles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39123269)

We have our own thermal baths [termabukowina.pl] , why should we?

Re:What about the poles? (2)

mbone (558574) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123821)

A planet like this is highly likely to be like Venus, with more or less the same temperature everywhere on the surface. Thick atmospheres will do that for you, and this is likely to have almost as high a surface pressure as Venus.

what it feels like in there... (1)

gciochina (1655025) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123069)

Standing on what little land exists here, you watch a giant red dwarf sink slowly into the horizon of a hot ocean. Waterspouts drop out of the sky, formed by a crushing atmosphere that wonâ(TM)t allow water to boil, even at 500 degrees Fahrenheit. You are on one of the smallest known exoplanets, GJ 1214b. http://evo.beyondgenes.com/journal/worldgj.jpg [beyondgenes.com] courtesy of Kemo D. 7

Re:what it feels like in there... (3, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123119)

Standing on what little land exists here, you watch a giant red dwarf sink slowly into the horizon of a hot ocean.

What a coincidence ... I was at the same party. That sunburned dwarf was pissed when they finally fished him out of the water.

Re:what it feels like in there... (1)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123143)

"Dwarf" is such a demeaning term. I prefer to think of them as "valid souls with a high degree of vertical challenge."

Not sure how you apply that to a planet, though.

Re:what it feels like in there... (4, Funny)

eyenot (102141) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123219)

"The red, vain soul with a high degree of vertical challenge ever so slowly slipped out of sight past the horizon, less like a setting Sun than a discovered pervert shying away from sight with the slow shuffle that only stars can make look graceful in bathrobes, his red."

Re:what it feels like in there... (1)

wintercolby (1117427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123873)

"Standing on what little land exists here, you watch a giant red [valid soul with a high degree of vertical challenge] sink slowly into the horizon of a hot ocean."

Re:what it feels like in there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39125113)

"Dwarf" is such a medically accurate [wikipedia.org] but politically incorrect term. I prefer to think of them as "valid souls with a high degree of vertical challenge."

FTFY

Personally, I just call them "people", but I'm funny like that.

Re:what it feels like in there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131571)

I call them "shrimpy" and pick fights with them.

Re:what it feels like in there... (1)

eyenot (102141) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123177)

*pfffffttttttt* *coughouchgouch* far OOUUUTTTTT--

Re:what it feels like in there... (1)

Magada (741361) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123447)

I'm on my way there, just have to buy a big, space capable sunshade.

Re:what it feels like in there... (3, Insightful)

mbone (558574) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123783)

Cool picture, but true water worlds are unlikely to have any true land (i.e., rocks at the surface). What they may have are mats of carbon materials too light to sink. On water worlds with biology, creatures may evolve to form such mats in symbiosis with air breathing animals (i.e., giving them a place to live, in return for goodies like nitrogen fixation from the atmosphere in their excretions), in much the same way as corals (the creatures that build coral reefs) get up to 90% of their nutrients from their symbionts [wikipedia.org] .

Now, that would be a water world Kevin Costner could be proud of.

The observations don't "confirm" anything (5, Informative)

solarissmoke (2470320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123083)

New Hubble observations confirm the atmosphere of the exoplanet is rich in water, comprising up to 50% of the atmosphere's mass.

Actually, they do nothing of the sort. They just make water a more probable explanation for the observations. It says as much in the article.

These [harvard.edu] abstracts [arxiv.org] both state that the data indicates an atmosphere high in hydrogen and helium, but (taken from the second abstract):

Our observations disfavour a water-world composition, but such a composition will remain a possibility until observations reconfirm our deeper Ks-band transit depth or detect features at other wavelengths.

Re:The observations don't "confirm" anything (3, Informative)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123099)

From the linked PDF, last of section 5.1 on page 15:

In the meantime, we adopt an atmosphere with at least 50% water by mass as the most plausible model to explain the WFC3 observations.

Re:The observations don't "confirm" anything (0)

solarissmoke (2470320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123133)

Like I said, we're talking probabilities, not certainties.

Re:The observations don't "confirm" anything (1)

Darfeld (1147131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123389)

Like much anything in physics if you want to be pedantic about it...

It won't stay that way for long (5, Interesting)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123163)

Even if it doesn't spiral into the star the UV will be slowly splitting the water into its component parts and the hydrogen will disappear off into space. What happens to the O2 after that is anyones guess - perhaps it'll react with whatever rock is there or perhaps it'll end up as a huge oxygen atmosphere.

Re:It won't stay that way for long (1)

eyenot (102141) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123191)

With the atmospheric pressure so high, won't the H end up forming with hydroxide to make water again (or water to make hydronium), and won't the oxygen ions just get absorbed into the water?

Re:It won't stay that way for long (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123937)

Don't know to TBH , I'm not a chemist. But some will undoubtedly escape before it can react with anything. Given the low density of the planet its unlikely its gravity is much greater than earths so H2 won't have a hard time escaping the atmosphere.

Re:It won't stay that way for long (1)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | more than 2 years ago | (#39124117)

According to TFA its gravity is 6.5 times Earth's.

Re:It won't stay that way for long (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39124569)

No , its says its *MASS* is 6.5 times that of earth. Given its much larger volume its gravity won't be anything like that. Gravity is a result of mass divided by volume, not just mass on its own. Otherwise Jupiter would have a gravity of about 300G , not just 2.5 and the sun would collapse into a black hole.

Re:It won't stay that way for long (3, Informative)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 2 years ago | (#39129167)

Where did you learn physics? Gravity is NOT a result of mass divided by volume. It's 1/r^2. That's mass divided by the surface area of the enclosing sphere.

Re:It won't stay that way for long (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39134869)

Last time I looked the surface area of a sphere was directly related to its volume you fscking moron.

Re:It won't stay that way for long (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 2 years ago | (#39135103)

Wow. Next time you're going to try to insult someone, at least have a clue what you're talking about.

The enclosing sphere has nothing to do with the volume of the object. It's the imaginary sphere at the relevant distance from the object's center of mass. The object's volume does not enter into the equation at any point.

Re:It won't stay that way for long (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39135297)

So let me get this straight, you're saying a sphere can increase or decrease its surface area without a commensurate increase or decrease in its volume? Well I'm stunned. You should publish a paper in Nature about your new model of reality - you'd win the nobel prize.

Re:It won't stay that way for long (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 2 years ago | (#39135333)

No, I'm not saying that. You need to read more carefully, and figure out the difference between the volume of an imaginary sphere enclosing a mass, and the volume of that mass (hint: the imaginary sphere can be any and all sizes greater than or equal to the volume of the mass).

When you decide you want to stop acting like a child and actually learn something, try reading this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gauss'_law_for_gravity [wikipedia.org]

Re:It won't stay that way for long (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39136641)

Err , ITYF the volume of the mass of a planet is the volume of the planet. Unless perhaps you were thinking of those oh-so-common planets where the core is actually hollow?

Fuckwit.

Re:It won't stay that way for long (1)

JTsyo (1338447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39129175)

pretty sure gravity is only influenced by mass and distance. I guess you can work volume in as long as you are only talking about gravity on the surface.

Re:It won't stay that way for long (4, Informative)

dmgxmichael (1219692) | more than 2 years ago | (#39129807)

Low density? Density doesn't enter into the equation here - gravity is a function of mass, not density. Here, look at this

  • Planet - Density
  • Mercury - 5.427 g/cm
  • Venus - 5.204 g/cm
  • Earth - 5.515 g/cm
  • Mars - 3.9335 g/cm
  • Jupiter - 1.326 g/cm
  • Saturn - 0.687 g/cm
  • Uranus - 1.27 g/cm
  • Neptune - 1.638 g/cm

Note, the inner rocky planets are WAY more dense than the gas giants - hell Saturn would float if you could find a bathtub big enough to throw it in. Saturn and Jupiter have no problem holding onto H2.

This planet is 6.5 the mass of earth. Uranus, the smallest gas giant in our own system is 14 times the mass of earth and has half the density of this planet.

This isn't surprising. This planet seems to occupy a transition zone between rocky planet and gas giant. Uranus & Neptune are primarily Methane.

I wonder if it turns out that most planets of a certain mass range are mostly water - earth being on the one end and this new planet on the other side of the curve. After a point the gases in the planet transition to methane for some reason, then finally to just diatomic hydrogen in the case of the largest gas giants, and finally stars.

We already know that Jupiter is about as large as a planet can get by volume - any larger and the density starts increasing again, until fusion occurs and you get a star somewhere around 50 Jupiter masses. (Some astronomer please correct me on that).

Re:It won't stay that way for long (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39124025)

INTRAmolecular bonds in a water molecule are polar covalent, NOT hydrogen bonds. UV is known to break hydrogen bonds (bonds between a free electron pair on a Nitrogen, Oxygen or Fluorine atom and a hydrogen) amongst water molecules, but not between its integral (component) parts (oxygen and hydrogen). If it were the case that UV broke water molecules up, we'd be in serious trouble. (or moreso than we're already in)

Re:It won't stay that way for long (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39124503)

Well thats how Mars lost its water. The reason it doesn't happen on earth is we have the ozone layer which prevents enough UV getting to the lower atmosphere and the ground to split the water.

Mind you , thinking about it - if this planet did end up with a lot of O2 in its atmosphere it would probably end up with an ozone layer too and the process would stop.

Re:It won't stay that way for long (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39127431)

Mars lost it's *atmosphere* because of lack of magnetic field. The magnetic field is what recycles *charged* ions, like O or H. It does not recycle things like H2. High energy photons that split these particles into charged particles helps to keep our atmosphere as is.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_magnetic_field#Importance [wikipedia.org]

Once magnetic field disappears, the atmosphere gets eroded by both the solar wind and simple velocity distribution of particles in a gas.

Re:It won't stay that way for long (1)

JTsyo (1338447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39129197)

that or the atmosphere burns.

Re:It won't stay that way for long (1)

dmgxmichael (1219692) | more than 2 years ago | (#39129889)

Wrong. Mars lost it's atmosphere because it's gravity and non-existent magnetic field were insufficient to retain it against the solar wind. Venus has a very weak magnetic field either for its size (why is a mystery), and as a result the atmosphere it has is what remains after the lighter elements (water, hydrogen and oxygen) have been eroded off by the solar wind.

Hot and steamy? (5, Funny)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123205)

With green, topless alien women seducing plucky Canadian starship captains........

Re:Hot and steamy? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123313)

So it is a Hot and Steamy X O Planet.

Re:Hot and steamy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39123685)

Hot and Steamy XO, sounds like a new, "urban" cognac.

Re:Hot and steamy? (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39124103)

So it is a Hot and Steamy X O Planet.

Kirk got all the action; his XO never got any because he was much too logical.

Re:Hot and steamy? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#39126359)

vulcans are total horn dogs when they get the itch

Re:Hot and steamy? (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39126769)

Yes, but they have a lot of frustration in the intervening 7 years

Re:Hot and steamy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39124831)

I believe Kirk was from Iowa

Cooking (1)

jones_supa (887896) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123303)

At 230 degrees Celsius, this means the planet is shrouded in steam.

My typical experience of cooking something in the oven...

Re:Cooking (0)

michelcolman (1208008) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123453)

Yes, we might not find aliens living there, but maybe they'll hang out there for cooking. Using space elevators to lower their salmon and chicken into the steam. Yummy! I would suggest pointing SETI that way and finally find the elusive buggers.

Re:Cooking (1)

garrettg84 (1826802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39124029)

Yummy! I would suggest pointing SETI that way and finally find the elusive *burgers*.

FTFY

Based on that description... (1)

masteva (996554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123411)

I propose we call this new planet "Barry White".

Waterworld ! (4, Informative)

mbone (558574) | more than 2 years ago | (#39123413)

With a density of 2 gm /cc, this is likely to be a true water world - a world where a rocky interior is surrounded by thousands of miles of ice (not "our" ice, but Ice XI, X, VII), probably a few 100 km of hot liquid (kept from boiling by pressure), and then a steam bath. Look at this phase diagram [lsbu.ac.uk] , and remember that you are starting at 500 K or so, and the pressure increases greatly at depth, so going down into the planet means you are probably following a nearly vertical (but tilted to the right) line on the phase diagram.

Re:Waterworld ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39128495)

Thanks for the link. Recently I was idly wondering about the density of different kinds of ice, but was too lazy to look it up.

IF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39123521)

IF it is rich in water and IF it is 230 then it could be much like some underwater volcanic vents often rich in life.

Re:IF (1)

JTsyo (1338447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39129229)

how low would the pressure have to be to still keep it as water at 230C? Also the planet outmasses the earth so I'm guessing pressure at the surface is much higher than Earth's especially with a 50% water atmosphere.

Exoplanet news always remind me of "City Slickers" (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | more than 2 years ago | (#39124059)

~ What do you think? What would be the perfect flavor with this meal?
~ Cherry vanilla?
~ No. If it was Chinese food, right on the money, but this? Toasted almonds.
~ What's going on?
~ Barry can pick out the exact right flavor of ice cream to follow any meal. Go ahead. Challenge him.
~ Challenge him?
~ Go on.
~ [ shrugs ] Franks and beans.
~ Scoop of chocolate, scoop of vanilla. Don't waste my time.
[ Flings plate at Mitch as if he throws down the gauntlet ]
~ Come on. Push me.
~ Sea bass.
~ Grilled?
~ Sauteed.
~ I'm with you.
~ Potatoes au gratin. Asparagus.
~ Rum raisin.
~ [ high-fiving ] WOOF!
~ Woof, what? How do you know he's right?
~ How do we know? 1400 retail outlets from coast to coast, that's how we know.
~ [ They look at each other, and high-five each other again ] WOOF!

.

Just wait until recreational space travel ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39126617)

... becomes possible, then we can have a Hot Springs Hotel on this exoplanet.

target acquired (1)

0111 1110 (518466) | more than 2 years ago | (#39126695)

I added this to my list of star systems to send messages to. Finding a planet in the system with so much water certainly seems promising. If only the professionals were doing active SETI. We should be messaging every single one of these promising systems. The declination of this system is around +5 degrees, which is conveniently close to the Arecibo dish zenith. Most promising systems that are also close by are far enough into the southern sky that Arecibo can't target them, but this one is right in its crosshairs.

Obviously this planet is not likely to contain life as we know it, but it might contain a more exotic form of life or if that planet is the Venus of Gliese 1214 then maybe there is an earth-like planet further out that we haven't detected.

I'm Talkin' Rainforest Sweaty (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#39126931)

Come on girl, yeah..it’s me Jackie Moon.
Don’t gimme that look, that’s right, let’s get sweaty, let’s get real sweaty
I’m talkin’ rainforest sweaty, I’m talkin’ swamp sweaty.
Let’s fill the bathtub full of sweatalright.

Baby who wants to love me sexy uh?
Baby are you ready to lick me sexy uh uh?
Take off your shoes and suck me sexy
Baby we’re naked and we’re humpin’ sexy

I wanna do a little thing wit choo
I wanna do a little thing wit choo
When I say love me you say sexy
Love me ------- sexy
Back it on up and show and prove
That lovin’ me sexy is the thing to do
Your body says love me your mind says sexy
Love me sexy

Baby who wants to love me sexy uh?
Baby are you ready to lick me sexy uh uh?
Take off your shoes and suck me sexy
Baby we’re naked and we’re humpin’ sexy

Freak of the week are you in the mood
To fly to the stars with Jackie Moon
When I say love me you say sexy
Love me -------sexy
Our Zodiac signs are compatible
Clocking that ass from across the room
Your body says love me your mind says sexy
Love me -------sexy

Baby who wants to love me sexy uh?
Baby are you ready to lick me sexy uh uh?
Take off your shoes and suck me sexy
Baby we’re naked and we’re humpin’ sexy

That’s right girl, let me whisper in your ear
Baby wake up, we’re naked and we’re humpin’ sexy
For the last fifteen minutes baby, that’s what’s been happen’
Yeah, too late now, it’s on.

Baby who wants to love me sexy uh?
Baby are you ready to lick me sexy uh uh?
Take off your shoes and suck me sexy
Baby we’re naked and we’re humpin’ sexy
Who wants to love me sexy?
Is it you? Or is it you?
Are you ready to lick me sexy?
Is it you? Or is it you?
Take off your shoes and suck me sexy
Is it you? Or is it you?
Baby were naked and we’re humpin’ sexy.
Is it you? Or is it you?

A good place for breakfast. (1)

Blinkin1200 (917437) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131153)

Sounds like you could fry an egg on the sidewalk at night too.
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