James Webb Telescope: "We are thrilled": Researchers surprised by quartz in the atmosphere of an exoplanet

Since its launch at the end of 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope has regularly provided images from space that have even amazed astronomers.

James Webb Telescope: "We are thrilled": Researchers surprised by quartz in the atmosphere of an exoplanet

Since its launch at the end of 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope has regularly provided images from space that have even amazed astronomers. The latest images from the telescope show a planet whose atmosphere appears to contain quartz crystals.

It is the exoplanet WASP-17 b, discovered in 2009, orbiting the star WASP-17 in the constellation Scorpius - about 1,300 light-years from Earth. WASP-17 b is one of the gas giants, i.e. planets that consist primarily of light gases such as hydrogen and helium. The discovery of the quartz crystals came as a surprise to the researchers. “We are thrilled,” Nasa quotes David Grant from the University of Bristol as saying.

Grant is lead author of a recent study that published the findings. "We knew from Hubble observations that there must be aerosols in WASP-17b's atmosphere - tiny particles that form clouds or haze. But we didn't expect them to be made of quartz," he says. The small particles fly through the exoplanet's atmosphere at speeds of thousands of kilometers per hour.

The researchers assume that they have observed tiny quartz particles - and not magnesium silicates, as previously assumed. "Instead, we are probably seeing its building blocks," explains astronomer Hannah Wakeford, who was also involved in the study. It is the first time that pure quartz particles have been found in the atmosphere of an exoplanet. The findings help to better understand the formation and development of clouds on exoplanets, the experts write. This in turn is important for understanding the planet as a whole.

Unlike Earth, the quartz crystals apparently form in the atmosphere of the exoplanet itself. David Grant points to the extreme heat (1500 degrees Celsius) that prevails there and the low pressure in the atmosphere. "Under these conditions, ester crystals can form directly from gas without first passing through a liquid phase," explains the researcher, according to NASA's statement.

Those:  Nasa

Watch the video: The planet Saturn is known for its numerous rings. The James Webb Space Telescope has now been able to take impressive images of the second largest planet in our solar system.

NEXT NEWS