The first exoplanet ever discovered orbiting another normal star was 51 Peg b, named after its parent star, 51 Pegasus. It is a Jupiter-sized planet which orbits around its star in 4 days! This discovery had challenged the understanding of planet formation at the time. The exoplanet was uncovered by measuring the star’s light in detail (a spectrum) which showed periodic shifting due to the planet’s gravitational pull. It was realized that the light of the planet should exhibit similar shifting in response. If the faint light from the planet could be detected, it could tell a lot about the planet itself. Find out how the science team managed to observe the planet and through careful analysis of the data and cleaning out any contaminating effects (like that produced by our own Earth’s atmosphere) they could tell that 51 Peg b’s atmosphere probably contains water!
Join Tony Darnell and Carol Christian during Afternoon Astronomy Coffee as they discuss with Jayne Birkby (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), Remco Dekok (Netherlands Institute for Space Research), Matteo Brogi (University of Colorado, Boulder) and Henriette Schwarz (University of California, Santa Cruz) as they discuss the discovery and observations of this famous planet and how they arrived at the exciting result that the planet’s atmosphere contains water.