Artist's impression of the exoplanet HAT-P-11b with its extended helium atmosphere blown away by the star, an orange dwarf star smaller, but more active, than the Sun. Image : Denis Bajram
Helium found in the atmosphere of an exoplanet - space short science news

An international team of researchers has detected helium in the atmosphere of exoplanet HAT-P-11b, located 124 light years away from Earth. Helium was found to escape from the planet’s atmosphere at high speed, at over 10,000 km an hour as it is blown away from the day side of the planet to its night side.

As helium is a very light gas, it can escape easily from the attraction of the exoplanet and forms a cloud around it. That is why HAT-P-11b has an inflated shape.

These breakthrough observations of helium in a planet’s atmosphere has become possible only through the recent development of the high-precision infrared spectrograph called Carmenes that is installed on the 4-meter telescope at Calar Alto in Spain. This study shows that the observation of extreme atmospheres of explanets is possible from the ground with the right instrumentation, and not necessarily from space.

Read the full story: Universities of Geneva and Exeter
Scientific publication: Science


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