The atmospheres of gaseous giant exoplanets orbiting close to their parent stars (hot Jupiters) have been probed for nearly two decades1,2. They allow us to investigate the chemical and physical properties of planetary atmospheres under extreme irradiation conditions3. Previous observations of hot Jupiters as they transit in front of their host stars have revealed the frequent presence of water vapour4 and carbon monoxide5 in their atmospheres; this has been studied in terms of scaled solar composition6 under the usual assumption of chemical equilibrium. Both molecules as well as hydrogen cyanide were found in the atmosphere of HD 209458b5,7,8, a well studied hot Jupiter (with equilibrium temperature around 1,500 kelvin), whereas ammonia was tentatively detected there9 and subsequently refuted10. Here we report observations of HD 209458b that indicate the presence of water (H2O), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen cyanide (HCN), methane (CH4), ammonia (NH3) and acetylene (C2H2), with statistical significance of 5.3 to 9.9 standard deviations per molecule. Atmospheric models in radiative and chemical equilibrium that account for the detected species indicate a carbon-rich chemistry with a carbon-to-oxygen ratio close to or greater than 1, higher than the solar value (0.55). According to existing models relating the atmospheric chemistry to planet formation and migration scenarios3,11,12, this would suggest that HD 209458b formed far from its present location and subsequently migrated inwards11,13. Other hot Jupiters may also show a richer chemistry than has been previously found, which would bring into question the frequently made assumption that they have solar-like and oxygen-rich compositions.
- Pub Date:
- April 2021
- Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics;
- Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics
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