James Webb was the first to discover quartz crystals in extraterrestrial clouds

WASP-17 b It is a extraterrestrial A hot gas giant located 1300 light years from Earth. It was detected by infrared instruments of James Webb.

Researchers using space telescopes James Webb from NASA For the first time, tiny quartz crystals have been found in the clouds of a extraterrestrial: He WASP-17 b.

Seven times the size of Jupiter, this gas giant is located 1,300 light-years from Earth and is the target of studies to understand the reason for this particular composition.

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Its importance

The detection, made possible only by MIRI (Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument), marks the first time that silica (SiO2) particles have been detected in the atmosphere of a planet.

Silicates (minerals rich in silicon and oxygen) make up most of the Earth and Moon, as well as other rocky material in our Solar System, and are very common throughout the galaxy. But silicate grains previously detected in the atmospheres of exoplanets and brown dwarfs appear to be composed of magnesium-rich silicates such as olivine and pyroxene, rather than pure SiO2 quartz.

According to NASAThe discovery gives a new twist to understanding how clouds form and evolve. Extraterrestrials.

“We expect magnesium silicates,” said the paper’s co-author. Astrophysical Journal Letters Hannah Wakeford. “But what we see instead may be their building blocks, the tiny ‘seed’ particles needed to form the large silicate grains we find in cool exoplanets and brown dwarfs.”

conditions WASP-17 b and allowed it to be detected James Webb. It has seven times the mass of Jupiter, but less than half the mass of the planet. This, along with its short orbital period of 3.7 Earth days, makes the planet ideal for transmission spectroscopy: which involves measuring the filtering and scattering effects of a planet’s atmosphere on light from stars.

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According to the agency, Webb observed the system WASP-17 For nearly 10 hours, the planet collected more than 1,275 brightness measurements of 5 to 12 microns of mid-infrared light as it transited its star. By subtracting the brightness of the individual wavelengths of light reaching the telescope when the planet is in front of the star, from the star alone, The team was able to calculate the amount of each wavelength blocked by the planet’s atmosphere.

What emerged was an unexpected “burst” at 8.6 microns, which would not be expected if the clouds were made of other potentially high-temperature aerosols, such as magnesium silicate or aluminum oxide, but would make more sense if they did. Quartz.

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To continue studying it

This is the Hubble telescope, its predecessor James Webb, He provided the team with ideas for determining the size of particles found in exoplanets.

Unlike the mineral particles found in Earth’s clouds, quartz crystals are found in Earth’s clouds WASP-17 b They are not pulled from the rock surface. Instead, they form in the atmosphere itself.

Understanding what makes clouds is important to understanding the planet as a whole. Likes warm Jupiter WASP-17 b They are composed primarily of hydrogen and helium, with small amounts of other gases such as water vapor (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2). “If we only consider the oxygen in these gases and don’t include all the oxygen locked up in minerals like quartz (SiO2), we will significantly underestimate the total abundance,” Wakeford explained. “These beautiful silica crystals tell us about the existence of different materials and how they combine to shape this planet’s environment.”

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WASP-17 b is one of three planets targeted by the JWST Telescope Science Team’s Multi-Instrument Spectroscopy (DREAMS) probes for deep observations of exoplanet atmospheres. : A hot Jupiter, a hot Neptune and a temperate rocky planet.

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