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Helium clouds


It’s called GJ 436b, and is located 33 light-years away. According to the observations of the Spitzer Space Telescope, its atmosphere, private progressively hydrogen, now it seems to be dominated by the lightest of the noble gases. This is one characteristic shared by thousands of extrasolar planets.
Living creatures is unlikely that the common people, but if there ever were any would talk like Donald Duck. And the balloons, there on GJ 436b, instead of getting up to the sky would remain suspended in midair. Yes, because the atmosphere of that distant world – is located about 33 light-years away – it seems to be composed mainly of helium, the lightest of the elements after hydrogen.

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Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

To notice, by analyzing data collected by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, a team of astronomers led by Hu Renyu JPL. And according to their study, to be published in The Astrophysical Journal, it would not be an exception: a proof of the fact that the variety of worlds that populate the universe beyond all imagination, would be thousands, in the Milky Way alone, the exoplanets enveloped by clouds in which the dominant chemical element is just the noble gases.
These are giant planets, the liquid core or rock, falling into the class of so-called hot nettuni, although with our Neptune mass in part, seem to have little in common. Indeed orbit so close to their parent star to be found with years lasting just one or two of our days, and with temperatures exceeding cheerfully 1000 Kelvin – thus well above 700 degrees.
Not only the short distance from the parent star would cause, Hu and colleagues suggest, the evaporation of hydrogen in the atmosphere. “Hydrogen is four times lighter than helium, then would slowly disappear from the atmospheres of these planets, thereby increasing over time the concentration of helium. A gradual process, “says Hu,” it would take up to 10 billion years.”

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Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

So private hydrogen atmospheres of these giant extrasolar find themselves accordingly well short of methane, the gas that gives Neptune its unmistakable streaks with a thousand shades of blue. This is because each molecule of methane is in turn composed of a carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. And it is the presence, in the spectrum of thermal emission of GJ 436b, without methane carbon astronomers to suggest that hydrogen can be evaporated away, leaving behind the carbon in the company of oxygen – carbon monoxide, therefore, , and carbon dioxide. And, in fact, it is leaving behind a high concentration of helium, so it’s giving to the planet – and to those with a similar atmosphere – an elegant pearly coloration.

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