“NASA’s Hubble Telescope Uncovers Water Vapor on Exoplanet GJ9827d: A Milestone in the Search for Water-Rich Worlds”
In a scientific breakthrough, astronomers utilizing NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have identified water vapor on the small exoplanet GJ9827d. Roughly twice the diameter of Earth, GJ9827d presents the potential for hosting a water-rich atmosphere, marking a crucial discovery in the quest for understanding the diversity of atmospheres on rocky planets beyond our solar system.
Björn Benneke from the Trottier Institute for Research on Exoplanets at Université de Montréal expressed the significance of this finding, stating, “This would be the first time that we can directly show through an atmospheric detection, that these planets with water-rich atmospheres can actually exist around other stars. This is an important step toward determining the prevalence and diversity of atmospheres on rocky planets.”
Co-principal investigator Laura Kreidberg of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy emphasized the landmark nature of water discovery on a planet of this size, bringing scientists closer to characterizing truly Earth-like worlds.
Despite the remarkable findings, astronomers remain uncertain about the composition of the planet’s atmosphere. There is a debate whether it primarily consists of water, a remnant from a primordial hydrogen/helium atmosphere, or if Hubble has spectroscopically measured a small amount of water vapor within a hydrogen-rich atmosphere.
GJ9827d, with a scorching temperature matching that of Venus at 800 degrees Fahrenheit, presents an intriguing celestial puzzle. If the atmosphere is predominantly composed of water vapor, the planet would be an inhospitable and steamy environment.
The discovery of GJ9827d dates back to 2017 when NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope first detected it. Orbiting a red dwarf star in the constellation Pisces, GJ9827 is situated 97 light-years away from Earth, completing one orbit around its star every 6.2 days.
This groundbreaking revelation opens new frontiers in our understanding of exoplanetary atmospheres, pushing the boundaries of what we thought possible and bringing us closer to unraveling the mysteries of distant, potentially habitable worlds.