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Hubble Telescope detects water in atmosphere of small exoplanet

In a landmark discovery, the Hubble Space Telescope revealed that GJ 9827d, a distant exoplanet, has an atmosphere abundant in water vapor. However, this celestial body is no paradise, boasting scorching surface temperatures that could liquefy lead.

The planet in question, GJ 9827d, is a testament to the extremes of the universe. Located in the constellation Pisces, 97 light years away, this planet is twice the size of Earth. It orbits the star GJ 987 with two other Earth-like planets.

The enigmatic nature of GJ 9827d

Despite the discovery, GJ 9827d remains an enigma. While the Hubble observations – which monitored the planet for three years and witnessed 11 transits – offer intriguing clues, they don't give us definitive answers. Is this exoplanet a super-Earth with a rocky core and a light atmosphere, or an aquatic world, predominantly composed of water ice?

The planet's atmosphere may be mostly composed of water vapor or a mixture with a significant amount of hydrogen. Both scenarios are compelling and represent a significant advance in understanding exoplanets. The discoveries about its atmosphere are a breakthrough, especially due to its small size compared to other planets with detected atmospheres.

Artist's concept of the exoplanet GJ 9827d, the small exoplanet where water vapor has been detected in the atmosphere.Source: NASA, ESA, Leah Hustak and Ralf Crawford (STScI)

A celestial voyage of discovery

If GJ 9827d retained its water vapor atmosphere, that means it was born far from its star, in cooler realms, before arriving here. The trip in question would have turned any ice into water and vapor, with the hydrogen likely escaping due to the planet's low gravity. This dynamic history helps us understand GJ 9827d.

As the James Webb Space Telescope sets its sights on this mysterious world, The hope is to uncover more of the planet's secrets. The team responsible for the investigation believes that JWST's advanced abilities will provide unprecedented data on the atmospheric composition of GJ 9827d and ultimately answer the long-standing question of the existence of water worlds.

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