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Space Science

Astronomers Confirm a Hot and Steamy Exoplanet 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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Astronomers Confirm a Hot and Steamy Exoplanet

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  • My ex... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:35AM (#39123011)

    was a hot and steamy exoplanet.

  • by fezzzz ( 1774514 ) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:39AM (#39123031)
    I wonder what the water temperature at this planet's poles are
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      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...

      • by Darfeld ( 1147131 ) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @08:51AM (#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

      • 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.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          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.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          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 i

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CSMoran ( 1577071 )

      What about the poles?

      They haven't got there yet.

    • by mbone ( 558574 )

      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.

  • 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
  • by solarissmoke ( 2470320 ) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:54AM (#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.

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @08:12AM (#39123163) Homepage

    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.

    • by eyenot ( 102141 )

      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?

      • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

        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.

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

          • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

            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.

            • by MaskedSlacker ( 911878 ) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @04:15PM (#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.

              • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

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

                • 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.

                  • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

                    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.

                    • 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]

                    • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

                      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?


            • by JTsyo ( 1338447 )
              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.
        • by dmgxmichael ( 1219692 ) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @05:07PM (#39129807) Homepage

          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).

  • by Vinegar Joe ( 998110 ) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @08:21AM (#39123205)

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

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

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

    • 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.
  • I propose we call this new planet "Barry White".
  • Waterworld ! (Score:5, Informative)

    by mbone ( 558574 ) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @08:58AM (#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.

  • ~ 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
  • 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 cro

  • 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

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

"How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "FIFTEEN!! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?"