A team of researchers harnessed the power of two NASA telescopes to explore a midsize exoplanet which has a size between Earth and Neptune. Planets of this type are not present in our solar system, but they are quite common in the case of other stars.
The planet, which is classified under the name of Gliese 3470b (or GJ 3470 b) is at the crossroads between Earth and Neptune. It features a large rocky core which is surrounded by a thick and powerful atmosphere filled with hydrogen-helium. The mass of the planet is on par with that of 12.6 Earths, and Neptune has a mass of 17 Earths.
The first similarities were observed with the help of the Kepler Space Observatory, and it is known that almost 80% of the planets present in our galaxy are included within the mass range which was previously mentioned. By surveying the atmosphere of the exoplanet, astronomers hope to learn more about the formation and nature of the object. The discovery is quite important when we are looking at planetary formation.
Astronomers Surveyed The Atmosphere Of A Midsize Exoplanet
The exoplanet is quite close to its host star, but its primordial atmosphere appears to be free of heavier elements, a trait which makes it interesting.
The astronomers decided to harness the power of the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes in an attempt to gain more data about the planet.
Several 12 transits and 20 eclipses were observed. Astronomers believed that they would encounter an atmosphere which contains a high amount of heavy elements, among which we can count carbon, oxygen, and methane.
The position of the planet is also interesting since similar planets form at a greater distance from their stars and travel closer to them. In this case, it seems that the planet formed in the same spot where it can be found today. Further research will take place in the future when the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope is operational.