Scientists have detected water vapor on other planets in the past, but these detections could only take place under very specific circumstances. The new technique expands a radial velocity technique, commonly used to detect carbon dioxide using light in the visible spectrum, into the infrared spectrum. This has opened up the ability of astronomers to analyze the molecules that comprise the atmosphere of exoplanets that don't exist under those specific circumstances.
Credit: Alexandra Lockwood (Caltech), background image used with permission from David Aguilar(CfA). Media Contact: Steve JeffersonCommunications OfficerW. M. Keck Observatory firstname.lastname@example.org (808) 881-3827 California Institute of Technology (Caltech) astronomers using data gathered at the W. M. Keck Observatory have developed a new technique for planetary scientists that could provide insight into how many water planets like Earth exist within our universe.
The research is part of the Strategic Explorations of Exoplanets and Disks with Subaru (SEEDS), a project to directly image extrasolar planets and protoplanetary disks around several hundred nearby stars using the Subaru Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The five-year project began in 2009 and is led by Motohide Tamura at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ).
Astronomers in the SEEDS Project have discovered the least massive planet ever detected around a star like the sun. A so-called "second Jupiter," planet GJ 504b is about four times more massive than Jupiter and has an effective temperature of about 460 degrees Fahrenheit (237 Celsius.) Us