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Is a satellite with erupting volcanoes found on an exoplanet?

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — A red-hot planet WASP-49 b may have a moon that emits clouds of volcanic gases into the surrounding space. This conclusion was made by astronomers, analyzing the observations of the mysterious world. If this version is confirmed, WASP-49 b could be the first exoplanet to have a reliably detected satellite.

A scientific article with the details of the study was accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal, but in the meantime, you can familiarize yourself with its preprint .

Scientists know more than 4,000 planets outside the solar system. But it has never been possible to establish with absolute certainty the existence of a satellite in an exoplanet. There are only a few observations that indicate the existence of exoluns, and all of them allow alternative interpretations.

Evidence of a satellite in the WASP-49 b came from an unexpected direction. Scientists analyzed a cloud of matter surrounding the planet and came to the conclusion that it is most likely formed by volcanic emissions from the satellite.

“It can be dangerous volcanic world with a molten surface covered with lava,” moon “version of similar super-Earths, such as 55 Cancri an e , – supposes the first author Apurva Oz ( Apurva Oza ), from the University of Bern -. The place where the Jedi die, dangerously familiar to Anakin Skywalker. ”

In the solar system there is a satellite with volcanoes – the famous Io , the most volcanically active body in the solar system. The bowels of this moon of Jupiter are heated by tidal forces . Numerous volcanoes throw clouds of gas into the surrounding space.

Is it possible that astronomers already observe something similar in the systems of other stars, but have not yet understood what exactly they see? To verify this version, the authors analyzed the observations of about a dozen exoplanets surrounded by a gas of alkali metals .

Researchers found five candidates for the exoio title, of which the most promising was WASP-49 b.

It is a gas giant located in the constellation Hare 550 light years from Earth. It is so close to its sun that it makes a complete revolution around it in less than three earth days.

Because of this, the planet gradually evaporates, throwing jets of gas into the surrounding space . This phenomenon is called planetary wind (similar to stellar and solar winds).

However, as the researchers found out, the concentration of gaseous sodium at a great distance from the exoplanet is abnormally high.

“Neutral gaseous sodium is so far from the planet that it can hardly be emitted solely from the planetary wind,” Oz explains.

The calculations convinced astronomers that the observed picture was ideally explained by the emissions of a volcanically active satellite.

“Sodium is where it should be [according to the exoio model],” says the scientist.

However, other explanations are not ruled out. For example, gas can still completely come from the planet, but escape from it not only due to evaporation, but also due to some additional processes.

The authors hope that clarity will bring new research. In particular, it is necessary to look around WASP-49 b for other substances that may be contained in volcanic emissions.

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