Traces of Titanium Oxide Detected on Exoplanet by VLT

Nitin Agarwal Science

In an astonishing discovery, atmosphere astronomers have successfully detected titanium oxide for the first time in an exoplanet. Elyar Sedaghati, an ESO fellow and a recent graduate of TU Berlin, along with his team of astronomers carried out a thorough study of the atmosphere of exoplanet [WASP-19b]. This incredible exoplanet has a mass equivalent to that of the Jupiter, but as it is very close to its parent star, hence it completes its orbit within just 19 hours and also its atmosphere is believed to have a temperature of more than 2000 degrees Celsius.

When WASP-19b crosses in front of its parent star, the sun light that passes through the atmosphere of the planet leaves some fingerprints in a light that finally reaches our Earth. And then by using the FORS2 instrument on the Very Large Telescope, the research team carefully examined the light and discovered that the atmosphere of the exoplanet contains traces of titanium oxide, water, and some sodium. Elyar Sedaghati, who spent two years as an ESO student for working on this project, told that such type of molecule detection was not an easy task. Because they had to collect some quality data along with concluding some sophisticated analysis. They used an algorithm that explored millions of spectra having a wide variety of chemical compositions, temperatures, and cloud as well as haze properties to get a satisfactory conclusion.

Titanium oxide is very rarely seen on Earth. It is believed to exist in those stars where the atmosphere is relaxed. But if the environment is hot like that of WASP-19b, then it acts as a heat absorber. If titanium oxide is present in large quantities, then they obstruct heat from escaping through or entering into the atmosphere which leads to thermal invasion.

The researchers believed that getting some exact details about the exoplanets and its atmosphere is a commendable and exciting thing. And also finding out traces of titanium oxide in the climate of the exoplanet can some vital information about its effect on atmospheric temperature and circulation.

The astronomers studied the character of the WASP-19b for nearly one year and through some detailed analysis about the radius and wavelengths of light they were able to get some valuable data about the properties and chemical composition of the atmosphere. Scientists gave all credit to the refurbished FORS2 instrument which gave some exact and quality details about the WASP-19b.

The research study was presented in the paper entitled “Detection of titanium oxide in the atmosphere of a hot Jupiter” by Elyar Sedaghati et al. to appear in the journal Nature.

Last modified: December 26, 2017

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