A mysterious planet kept baffling researchers since it was first discovered in 2009. This planet, called WASP-18b, is unusual due to its uncommon atmosphere which makes it hard for life to exist. It turns out the dominating component of this atmosphere is carbon monoxide, which is something scientists have never seen before.
The Death Planet was not like most hot Jupiters
WASP-18b has first been detected in 2009 and, since then, scientists kept studying it. They observed the planet was different, and discovered it was the first they had ever seen with the atmosphere composed mostly of carbon monoxide.
This means it’s impossible for water to exist on its surface, so life cannot be present there. Therefore, scientists chose the most suitable nickname they could ever find, namely the Death Planet. However, the carbon monoxide is the only element which makes the planet so deadly, as it’s only a regular cosmic object of the hot Jupiter type.
At first, they thought it wasn’t much different from the planets of this type. Usually, the atmosphere of hot Jupiters is made up of all kinds of oxides which absorb the light coming from their governing starts. This light is preserved in the upper layer of the atmosphere, and it’s available for scientists to study. However, as soon as they looked at this light of WASP-18b, they noticed something different.
Its atmosphere is made up mostly of carbon monoxide
It turned out the Death Planet had only carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in its atmosphere. Carbon dioxide would have allowed for the presence of water, but researchers saw no trace of it. This is how they concluded most part of the atmosphere was carbon monoxide.
This was an exciting discovery, since it was the first time when scientists observed an atmosphere based mostly on carbon monoxide which absorbed light. Therefore, they will continue their observations and try to put up a more detailed study of the Death Planet. The findings they have collected so far have been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons