Researchers find titanium oxide in atmosphere of exoplanet

The presence of titanium oxide gives the planet a shield layer like the ozone layer of earth which prevents heat to come inside or escape the atmosphere.

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Astronomers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO), Chile have found titanium oxide in an exoplanet's atmosphere, for the first time.

The observations made through the "Very Large Telescope" (VLT) in the observatory have helped in detecting titanium oxide in the atmosphere of a planet named as WASP 19b, located at 815 light years from the Earth.

Ryan MacDonald, an astronomer at the University of Cambridge in England stated in the journal 'Nature', "The presence of titanium oxide in the atmosphere of WASP-19b can have substantial effects on the atmospheric temperature structure and circulation."

The researchers said in the journal that the presence of titanium oxide in the atmosphere will prevent heat from entering or exiting, keeping the upper layers hotter than the lower layers. This is known as "thermal inversion". A similar phenomenon is seen in the Earth's atmosphere where the Ozone layer plays the role of titanium oxide.

Sedaghata added, " Detecting such molecules is, however, no simple feat," "Not only do we need data of exceptional quality, but we also need to perform a sophisticated analysis. We used an algorithm that explores many millions of spectra spanning a wide range of chemical compositions, temperatures, and cloud or haze properties in order to draw our conclusions."

According to the researchers, WASP-19b is about the mass of the Jupiter. It lies very close to the sun and would take about 19 hours to complete one orbit. The surface temperature of WASP-19b's atmosphere is thought to be around 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,000 degrees Celsius).

The research was done by a team of scientists of European Southern Observatory, the German Aerospace Center and the Technical University of Berlin under Elyar Sedaghati of (ESO). The researchers studied the WASP-19b for over a year using the VLT refurbished FORS2 instrument (an optical instrument). The observations helped them to find small amounts of titanium oxide, water and wisps of sodium, swirls in the atmospheric air.

The team members said that they need to improve modelling the atmosphere of the exoplanet.

Related topics : Exoplanet Space