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Deflating a Planet: Helium Loss in the Atmosphere of Wasp-107b

14 Jun 2018, 15:58 UTC
Deflating a Planet: Helium Loss in the Atmosphere of Wasp-107b
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Title: Helium in the Eroding Atmosphere of an ExoplanetAuthors: J. J. Spake, D. K. Sing, T. M. Evans, et al.First Author’s Institution: University of ExeterStatus: Published in Nature [closed access] (open access on arxiv here)Hydrogen and helium are the two most abundant elements in our Solar System (and the Universe as a whole). They are the main constituents in our Sun and in the atmospheres of our gas giants. Even Earth has some minor amount of helium in its upper atmosphere. Because these elements are so common, we also expect gas giant exoplanets to have large abundances of hydrogen and helium in their atmospheres. In fact, in 2000, Seager and Sasselov predicted that we should be able to observe helium and other atoms in the atmospheres of these planets in the near-future.While we have directly detected hydrogen in the atmospheres of a handful of exoplanets, helium continues to remain elusive. This isn’t to say that these exoplanets aren’t composed of helium, helium is simply difficult to detect. As a noble gas, helium is hard to excite to different atomic energy levels, which is required for emission or absorption to occur. Even then, helium has only a few spectral lines we ...

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