Newly discovered Jupiter-sized exoplanet might become cosmic 'Rosetta stone'

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Washington, March 18 (ANI): An international team of scientists has reported the discovery of a new planet the size of Jupiter that has a temperate climate, which might turn out to be the Rosetta stone in exoplanet research.

The planet, called CoRoT-9b, was discovered by using the CoRoT space telescope satellite.

The newly discovered planet orbits a star similar to our sun and is located in the constellation Serpens Cauda, at a distance of 1500 light-years from Earth.

"CoRoT-9b is the first transiting extrasolar planet that is definitely similar to a planet in our solar system, namely Jupiter," UCSB postdoctoral fellow Avi Shporer told National Geographic News.

"What is special about this planet is that it transits a star, and it is a temperate planet. It has great potential for future studies concerning its physical characteristics and atmosphere," he added.

"Corot-9b is the first exoplanet that really does resemble planets in our solar system," said lead author Hans Deeg. "It has the size of Jupiter and an orbit similar to that of Mercury," he added.

The planet is mostly made of hydrogen and helium, but may contain up to 20 Earth masses of heavier elements including rock and water under high pressure.

It thus appears to be very similar to the solar system's giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn.

"It may contain up to 20 Earth masses of other elements, including water and rock at high temperatures and pressures," said team member Tristan Guillot.

The planet Corot-9b passes in front of its star every 95 days, as viewed from Earth.

Each of these "transits" lasts about eight hours.

When Corot-9b is positioned between its star and Earth, some of the light from its star passes through the exoplanet's atmosphere before continuing on to our planet.

By studying this filtered starlight, astronomers may be able to determine what molecules make up Corot-9b's atmosphere.

If that's the case, Corot-9b could become a "Rosetta stone" for exoplanet research, according to study co-author Claire Moutou of the Laboratory of Astrophysics of Marseilles in France, referring to the artifact that helped decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

"We hope that when we can investigate this planet, it will have characteristics which are close to other giant gas planets outside our solar system," Moutou said.

That's because Corot-9b's physical properties are thought to be representative of many gas giant exoplanets in our galaxy.

So, studying Corot-9b in detail could shed light on worlds that do not transit, and thus are impossible for astronomers to research. (ANI)

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