Comprehensive Spectrum of WASP-39b
Using Hubble and Spitzer, astronomers analyzed the atmosphere of the “hot Saturn” exoplanet WASP-39b, and they captured the most complete spectrum of an exoplanet’s atmosphere possible with present-day technology. By dissecting starlight filtering through the planet’s atmosphere into its component colors, the team found clear evidence for water vapor. Although the researchers predicted they would see water, they were surprised by how much water they found — three times as much water as Saturn has. This suggests that the planet formed farther out from the star, where it was bombarded by icy material.