The Heaviest Element Ever Seen in an Exoplanet’s Atmosphere: Barium

This artist’s impression shows an ultra-hot exoplanet as it is about to transit in front of its host star. Using the ESPRESSO instrument of ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers have found the heaviest element yet in an exoplanet's atmosphere, barium, in the two ultra-hot Jupiters WASP-76 b and WASP-121 b. Image Credit: ESO

Astronomers have spotted barium in the atmosphere of a distant exoplanet. With its 56 protons, you have to run your finger further down the periodic table than astronomers usually do to find barium. What does finding such a heavy element in an exoplanet atmosphere mean?

It means we’re still learning how strange exoplanets can be.

Continue reading “The Heaviest Element Ever Seen in an Exoplanet’s Atmosphere: Barium”