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December 12, 2010

Astronomers Detect First Carbon Rich Exoplanet

WASP-12b, an exoplanet located around 1200 light years away from the Earth, has an atmosphere enriched in carbon. This may not seem to be a huge deal, however, it is very important finding. Although this finding does not make us more inclined to think that it is habitable because it is so far away, astronomers believe that this discovery can teach them about the interiors of these carbon-rich, rocky terrestrial planets. What I found really interesting was that it is a "very hot jupiter," meaning it is a gaseous planet, however, it is extremely hot even though it is extremely far relative to the Sun. This new discovery will allow scientists to continue their studies on exoplanet atmospheres, and to see how their atmospheres have evolved over the last 4.4 billion years that our galaxy has existed. This new discovery can also allow us to see what type of life forms possibly exist there with immense amount of organic compounds. Read the article below for more information!

URL: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101208132212.htm

Posted by katzbra at December 12, 2010 09:57 PM


Considering that this is the very first exoplanet found to have an atmosphere rich in carbon, I am curious to know what this means for the planet's habitability. While it seems like this exoplanet might be more habitable than other planets/exoplanets, I agree that there are a number of factors that play into a planet's habitability, and therefore feel that scientists should not get their hopes up quite yet, until some more testing is done. Besides that, however, this exoplanet would be very interesting to follow up on and stay updated on scientists' progress with their investigation.

Posted by: eswhang at December 14, 2010 02:22 AM

I don't think the carbon enriched atmosphere can mean too much as far as the habitability of this particular "hot jupiter" planet because the planet is made probably 99% of gas and is probably way too hot for life but I do think it is important to note that this could lead to the findings of similar smaller planets with significant amounts of carbon that could have a surface with a high possibility of habitability. It's a downer to hear that the planet has 100 more times methane than water vapor, seeing as water is a much better liquid medium. On the contrary, it's exciting to hear that other exoplanet's with a distinctive oxygen to carbon ratio could harbor oceans with life.

Posted by: sbaily at December 14, 2010 10:07 PM

I agree, I think the planet is too 'hot' to harbor life as we know it.

However, I think it is interesting to note that the planet is found to be 'far' away from its sun, when most exoplanets have been found to be as large as this one, but also right next to their suns.

This finding must have huge implications on planet formation principles like the 'frost line'.

Posted by: dkaknjo at December 15, 2010 01:39 PM

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