“James Webb” first discovered quartz crystals in the atmosphere of an exoplanet

“James Webb” first discovered quartz crystals in the atmosphere of an exoplanet

The James Webb space telescope detected signs of the presence of nanocrystalline quartz (SiO2) in the atmosphere of the exoplanet WASP-17 b, located 1300 light years from Earth. This is the first time that SiO2 find in the atmosphere of exoplanets and the first case when certain types of clouds are determined on exoplanets by transit.

The volumes of WASP-17 b are several times larger than Jupiter, while the exoplanet is several times smaller than our gas giant in terms of mass. WASP-17 b orbits its host star in just 3.7 Earth days, which is very convenient for the transit method of observation. As it passes in front of the luminary, the light from the star passes through the exoplanet. Based on the obtained spectra, it is possible to judge its composition, density, and more.

The dotted line shows what the spectrum would look like without quartz.

The researchers suggest that the quartz found was not swept from the probable rocky surface into the atmosphere, but originated from this atmosphere. Considering the pressure and temperature on WASP-17 b (about 1500 ° C), the researchers do not rule out that nanocrystals are formed in the high layers of the atmosphere from gas, bypassing the liquid state, but nothing can be said more precisely. For now, it remains a mystery from what it is formed, and it is not clear how many such quartz clouds there are on the exoplanet.

The results of the study were published in the article “JWST‑TST DREAMS: Quartz Clouds in the Atmosphere of WASP-17b» of Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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