The first-ever exoplanet discovered was born at least a 100 times farther away from its Sun than where it is now — and has six chemicals in its atmosphere to prove it

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The first-ever exoplanet discovered was born at least a 100 times farther away from its Sun than where it is now — and has six chemicals in its atmosphere to prove it
Artist's impression of the first-ever exoplanet to be discovered, HD 209458b, nicknamed OsirisNASA/European Space Agency/Alfred Vidal-Madjar
  • The mysteries around Osiris, the first-ever planet to be discovered outside the boundaries of our solar system, are still being revealed.
  • A new study published in Nature has determined that the exoplanet was formed 100 times further from its host than its current position.
  • A team of researchers from the University of Warwick were able to draw this conclusion by measuring the molecules in Osiris’ atmosphere — a technique that’s been used for the very first time.
Osiris, officially called HD 209458 b, is the first-ever planet that astronomers spotted beyond the reaches of Earth’s solar system. And a new study published in Nature by researchers at the University of Warwick revealed the presence of six chemicals in Osiris’ atmosphere.

And, the mix and match of these chemicals suggest that the exoplanet was much farther out than its current position when it originally came into existence — 100 times, at least.
The outer layer of the exoplanet is made up of hydrogen cyanide, methane, ammonia, acetyl, carbon monoxide and low amounts of water vapour.

The surprising abundance of carbon-based molecules suggests that there are as many carbon atoms as oxygen atoms in the atmosphere. According to the study, this is double the amount of carbon atoms than expected.
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This is the first time that so many molecules have been measured to try and pinpoint where these giant, hot planets — akin to Jupiter — originally came into existence. And it explains why the birthplace of Osiris wasn’t anywhere near its host star.

The first-ever exoplanet discovered was born at least a 100 times farther away from its Sun than where it is now — and has six chemicals in its atmosphere to prove it
Comparison of exoplanet HD 209458b (right) to Jupiter (left)Wikimedia

Osiris was born as far away from its Sun as Jupiter or Saturn


Osiris is currently located around 7 million kilometres from its Sun, which is around one-twelfth of the distance between the Earth and its Sun — even closer than Mercury is to our seething star.
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But it wasn’t always this way. The study pegs that Osiris was most likely as far out as Jupiter or Saturn in our own solar system. This puts it anywhere from 758.04 million kilometres to 1.49 billion kilometres from its host star in its early days.

The first-ever exoplanet discovered was born at least a 100 times farther away from its Sun than where it is now — and has six chemicals in its atmosphere to prove it
An artist's concept of a "Hot Jupiter" extrasolar planet like HD 209458bNASA

Had the exoplanet formed in the same position that it is now, it would have a lot more oxygen atoms. Instead of chemicals like hydrogen cyanide, methane, and ammonia, there would be more hydrogen and carbon monoxide.

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Shedding light on a mystery that has lasted two decades


Having a full portfolio of facts is important nonetheless. “It's really important that we don't work under the assumptions that there are only a couple of molecular species that are important to determine the spectra of these planets, as has frequently been done before,” said Matteo Brogi, a member of the team from the University of Warwick.

Despite being aware of Osiris for over two decades, there’s still very little we know about this exoplanet located 159 light years away.

Exoplanets are planets located outside the Earth’s solar system. And they are the prime targets for finding another habitable planet, which humans can one day live on or find other forms of life with whom to communicate.
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