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Astronomers use car engines to investigate hot exoplanet atmospheres

5 Apr 2018, 14:46 UTC
Astronomers use car engines to investigate hot exoplanet atmospheres
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Artist’s impression showing a Jupiter-like transiting planet around a solar-like host star. Image credit: ESO/L. Calçada
Chemical models developed to help limit the emission of pollutants by car engines are being used to study the atmospheres of hot exoplanets orbiting close to their stars. The results of a collaboration between French astronomers and applied combustion experts have been presented by Dr. Oliva Venot and Dr. Eric Hébrard at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS) 2018 in Liverpool.
Large planets similar to Neptune or Jupiter, orbiting 50-times closer to their star than the Earth does from the Sun, are thought to be composed of hydrogen-rich gas at temperatures between one and three thousand degrees Celsius, circulating at enormous speeds of nearly 10,000 kilometres (6,213 miles) per hour. With these extreme conditions, the interplay of various physical processes, such as vertical transport, circulation or irradiation, can drive the atmospheres of these hot exoplanets out of chemical equilibrium, resulting in deviations that are difficult to explain through standard astrophysical models and observations.
Venot, of the Laboratoire Interuniversitaire des Systèmes Atmosphériques, explains: “The philosophy of our team in solving problems is to search for and import well-tried methods from any other ...

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