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Probing an 'Invisible' Exoplanet's Atmosphere

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the seeing-what-we-can-see dept.

Space 28

astroengine writes "To study the atmospheres of planets beyond the solar system, astronomers have had two choices: pick one that flies across the face of its parent star relative to Earth's perspective (an event known as a transit), or wait for a new generation of more sensitive space telescopes that can directly capture the planet's faint light. Now, there's a third option. Using a cryogenically-cooled infrared detector on a telescope in Chile, astronomers ferreted out beams of light coming directly from Tau Boötis b, a massive planet about 50 light-years from Earth."

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How do they know??? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40472113)

How do they know it's from that planet?

Can't it be light from Uranus?

Re:How do they know??? (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40472195)

I am sure they can tell your anus from a planet. While it certainly is quite conspicuous, given your rivalry with goatse, a gas giant is still far larger, and easily distinguished. You've got some more..practice...to do before you are ready for that competition.

Or did you mean the local planet? I seriously doubt that the astronomers in question have instruments that poorly calibrated that 50 light minutes could be confused with 50 light years... just sayin.

Re:How do they know??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40477351)

given your rivalry with goatse

And you would know this how?

Re:How do they know??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40472253)

Read the summary. It says right there, Thai booty

Re:How do they know??? (1)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 2 years ago | (#40472825)

I believe that's pronounced "Tau BooTAY ! "

Re:How do they know??? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#40476125)

How do they know it's from that planet?

Can't it be light from Uranus?

Ah, so you've caught the joke: Tau Boötis is Greek for Teh Bootie.

"Third option"? (4, Interesting)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#40472151)

Why does the "third option" sound so suspiciously similar to the second one? If VLT is not one of the "new generation of more sensitive space telescopes", then I'll eat my shoes.

Re:"Third option"? (5, Informative)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40472213)

Why does the "third option" sound so suspiciously similar to the second one? If VLT is not one of the "new generation of more sensitive space telescopes", then I'll eat my shoes.

I believe by "space telescopes," the summary writer was specifically referring to telescopes deployed in space.

Re:"Third option"? (0)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40473031)

I hope OP wears leather shoes.

Re:"Third option"? (0)

sco08y (615665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40473385)

I hope OP wears leather shoes.

I'm hoping that the OP wears cake shoes, just on the principle that if I ever found myself having to eat my shoes, I'd rather they were delicious. And that I was wearing socks, and that I had scrubbed my feet that morning.

Re:"Third option"? (1)

jdastrup (1075795) | more than 2 years ago | (#40472269)

Because only have 1 option to overcome doesn't sounds nearly as good as overcoming 2 obstacles.

Re:"Third option"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40472487)

Get out your Worcester sauce buddy; 'space telescope' refers to satellite scopes like the Hubble..

Re:"Third option"? (1)

PerfectionLost (1004287) | more than 2 years ago | (#40472609)

Possibly because the telescope in Chile was a retrofitted existing telescope, as opposed to a new telescope.

Re:"Third option"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40474149)

Why does the "third option" sound so suspiciously similar to the second one? If VLT is not one of the "new generation of more sensitive space telescopes", then I'll eat my shoes.

PICS OR IT DIDN'T HAPPEN!

What? (1)

imagined.by (2589739) | more than 2 years ago | (#40472237)

Why is this a third option?`Doesn't it belong to b)?

Re:What? (2)

rolfeb (1218438) | more than 2 years ago | (#40473113)

Option b) is imaging just the light from the planet (which we can't currently do).

It looks like option c) is imaging the combined light from the star and planet, but using the doppler shifting of the planet's light as it rotates around the star to work out the planet's contribution.

Re:What? (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#40474213)

I sense the presence of CowboyNeal at work here.

Re:What? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40474517)

Because Chile != space.

Seriously, how hard is this? Please join K. S. Kyosuke for a shoe luncheon.

Re:What? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#40479579)

Because Chile != space

"Alien" != "someone from outer space".

Alien vs Lucifer [slashdot.org]

Harley is an alien. Rather than being from Betelguise as one might suppose, or even Guilford, Harley was from Peru.

Why does this sound dirty? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40472257)

I don't know is it me or what. But when I read the headline it just sounded like something dirty.

Why in Chile? (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 2 years ago | (#40472481)

In orbit you would get the cryogenic part for free, and no matter how clear and dry is the atmosphere in Chile, is no match for no atmosphere at all in orbit. But I suppose that a new telescope in space would fit into the 2nd option.

Re:Why in Chile? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#40473407)

Cheap, cheap, and....cheap. Also, it makes upgrades to future technologies much easier. That, and maintenance!

Re:Why in Chile? (3, Informative)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 2 years ago | (#40473775)

In orbit you would get the cryogenic part for free

Not so. You have to cool satellites too as they also receive solar radiation. And getting to orbit certainly isn't free.

Re:Why in Chile? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40477529)

Correct! And cooling things in space is actually a relatively serious problem. There's nowhere for the heat to go!

Better source (4, Informative)

phme (1501991) | more than 2 years ago | (#40472623)

discovery.com, really? From ESO's press release (http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1227/):

The team used the CRIRES instrument on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. They combined high quality infrared observations (at wavelengths around 2.3 microns) [At infrared wavelengths, the parent star emits less light than in the optical regime, so this is a wavelength regime favorable for separating out the dim planet’s signal.] with a clever new trick to tease out the weak signal of the planet from the much stronger one from the parent star.

This method uses the velocity of the planet in orbit around its parent star to distinguish its radiation from that of the star and also from features coming from the Earth’s atmosphere. The same team of astronomers tested this technique before on a transiting planet, measuring its orbital velocity during its crossing of the stellar disc.

Lead author of the study Matteo Brogi (Leiden Observatory, the Netherlands) explains: “Thanks to the high quality observations provided by the VLT and CRIRES we were able to study the spectrum of the system in much more detail than has been possible before. Only about 0.01% of the light we see comes from the planet, and the rest from the star, so this was not easy”.

The majority of planets around other stars were discovered by their gravitational effects on their parent stars, which limits the information that can be gleaned about their mass: they only allow a lower limit to be calculated for a planet’s mass. The new technique pioneered here is much more powerful. Seeing the planet’s light directly has allowed the astronomers to measure the angle of the planet’s orbit and hence work out its mass precisely. By tracing the changes in the planet’s motion as it orbits its star, the team has determined reliably for the first time that Tau Boötis b orbits its host star at an angle of 44 degrees and has a mass six times that of the planet Jupiter in our own Solar System.
[...]
As well as detecting the glow of the atmosphere and measuring Tau Boötis b’s mass, the team has probed its atmosphere and measured the amount of carbon monoxide present, as well as the temperature at different altitudes by means of a comparison between the observations and theoretical models. A surprising result from this work was that the new observations indicated an atmosphere with a temperature that falls higher up. This result is the exact opposite of the temperature inversion — an increase in temperature with height — found for other hot Jupiter exoplanets

Thats no moon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40473673)

The first thing they saw was a small moon orbiting Tau Bootis b. Then Tau Bootis b exploded.

50 light years they say. Hmmm. That is a little farther than the Kessle Run.

Option 4 (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#40474245)

Shake yer Boötis!

Tau Boo (1)

a_hanso (1891616) | more than 2 years ago | (#40474925)

Scientists not only learned just how massive Tau Boo is -- roughly six times the size of Jupiter

There are two other planets in this system, it seems: Mu Boo and Na Boo.

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