Home Science WASP-96b is the 1st cloudless Exoplanet

WASP-96b is the 1st cloudless Exoplanet

Sodium, which is the seventh common element in the universe is present in abundance in this exoplanet.


A new study suggests that the WASP-96b is the new exoplanet which has no cloud. Scientists used the European Southern Observatory (ESO) Huge telescope in Chile to detect an exoplanet which is about 1,000 light years away from Earth. WASP-96b is said to be about 20 percent larger than Jupiter and have the same mass as that of Saturn.

WASP-96b is the 1st cloudless Exoplanet
Image Source: Spaceflight News

Sodium, which is the seventh common element in the universe is present in abundance in this exoplanet. This planet has undetected for so long in previous exoplanet studies as the signatures of this planet is very weak and cannot penetrate through the dark atmosphere.

The research team which was led by Dr Nikolay Nikolov of the University of Exeter, United Kingdom, used the Very Large Telescope to collect the data about this hot gas giant. The researchers noticed the atmospheric makeup of the exoplanet by studying the planet when it passed in front of the host star and came to know how the atmosphere affected the light that comes from the star.

This influence creates a spectrum which is itself a unique fingerprint-like structure which indicates the presence of sodium. The appearance of the exoplanet shows it has a tent-shaped silhouette and has a bright and cloudless atmosphere.

According to Nikolov, “We’ve been looking at more than twenty exoplanet transit spectra. WASP-96b is the only exoplanet that appears to be entirely cloud-free and shows such a clear sodium signature, making the planet a benchmark for characterisation. Until now, sodium was revealed either as a very narrow peak or found to be completely missing. This is because the characteristic ‘tent-shaped’ profile can only be produced deep in the atmosphere of the planet.”

WASP-96b has a sodium-rich atmosphere and is extremely hot whose temperature is measured at 1,300 Kelvins. It is also huge as compared to Jupiter and the mass of the planet is same as that of Saturn, and it is alps named as “hot Saturn.”

The discovery of this exoplanet which is free of clouds will help researchers to study this conditions. They can also distinguish between the thick clouds which are caused due to carbon dioxide, water, and carbon monoxide. Scientists also planned to study the planet further in future by using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and New upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.