NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope observed the exoplanet WASP-80 b as it passed in front of and behind its host star, revealing spectra indicative of an atmosphere containing methane gas and water vapor. While water vapor has been detected in over a dozen planets to date, until recently methane – a molecule found in abundance in the atmospheres of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune within our solar system – has remained elusive in the atmospheres of transiting exoplanets when studied with space-based spectroscopy. Taylor Bell from the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute (BAERI), working at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, and Luis Welbanks from Arizona State University tell us more about the significance of discovering methane in exoplanet atmospheres and discuss how Webb observations facilitated the identification of this long-sought-after molecule. These findings were recently published in the scientific journal Nature. Vivien Parmentier, researcher at Côte d'Azur Observatory, participated in the analysis and interpretation of the data. Now that this first overview of the data has been published, he and phd Nishil Mehta at Côte d'Azur Observatory will study the interaction between chemistry and atmospheric circulation using complex three-dimensional models.
On Tuesday 10 October 2023, an intermediate version of the Gaia data will be published between DR3 (June 2022) and DR4 (end 2025). This has kept the researchers and engineers in the Gaia team in Nice busy! To explain the properties and main results of this data, five research articles will be published at the same time (see link below). For three of them, researchers from the Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur were among the main authors. They cover a wide range of subjects, from the solar system to distant quasars.
The study, led by Dr. Siemen Burssens of KU Leuven, Belgium and published in Nature Astronomy, applied the technique of asteroseismology to study the variability of a newly discovered pulsating star known as HD 192575.
An international scientific team, including Côte d'Azur University Professor Vivien Parmentier, has gained new insights into the atmosphere of a « mini-Neptune », a common type of planet in the galaxy but about which little is known. Vivien Parmentier's contribution was to develop the theoretical models that determined that a heavy atmosphere is necessary to reduce heat transport from the day side to the night side of the planet.
To date, despite the huge number of exoplanet discoveries, the formation and properties of giant planets remains a mystery. Giant exoplanets sculpt young exoplanetary systems, and might determine whether smaller Earth-like planets could be capable of harboring life. The observation and characterization of the properties of young exoplanets is crucial to help scientists to understand what giant exoplanets are made of, how they differ from Jupiter and Saturn, and how they formed.
The success of the GRAVITY interferometric instrument on the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI), in particular with results of the confirmation of general relativity in strong regime which it provided on the black hole of our galaxy, SgrA*, led to the start of a project of instrumental and infrastructure improvements in order to extend this level of performance to the field of the exoplanets (high contrast adaptive optics) and to extragalactic astrophysics (laser guide stars) ; it is the GRAVITY+ project and mainly concerns the improvement of the performance of the adaptive optics of the VLTI. The Gravity+ consortium, composed of MPE, CNRS (through LESIA, IPAG, Lagrange & CRAL), MPIA, University of Cologne, CENTRA laboratory, Southampton University as well as ESO, has been working for 3 years on the design and the realization of 4 identical adaptive optics systems which will replace the MACAO systems, more than 20 years old. MPE is the prime contractor and responsible for the manufacturing of the wavefront sensors for natural and laser guide stars; LESIA is in charge of the realization of the real time computer and IPAG, in collaboration with ALPAO are developing the wavefront correction device (deformable mirror with 41x41 actuators). OCA is in charge of the integration of these components on an optical bench which reproduces the VLT's Coudé beam.
What is the origin of the air we breathe, of the water in our seas and oceans, where does daylight come from, why is there a terrestrial climate, why are there auroras, why...? The answer lies in the sky. The stars are a great supplier of chemical elements, and our Sun is the source of life. Since time immemorial, man has been concerned with knowing more and more about the stars, their movement, their size, their composition... Thus, astronomy was born informing us about the celestial stars. These are described by various characteristics, mass, diameter, rotation, temperature, chemical composition, etc... to which are added the place of this body in the universe, its history, and even, in the case of the sun, its repercussions on the history of humanity.
The spiral arms of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, have a significant impact on the chemical composition of stars. This result, newly discovered, plays a fundamental role in the study of our Galaxy and the chemical elements composing not only the stars, but also the Earth and the living beings. The study leading to this conclusion has been carried out by a team of researchers from the Côte d’Azur Observatory – Côte d’Azur University-CNRS (Nice, France) and from the Torino Observatory (Italy). This team has been led by Eloisa Poggio, an Italian scientist working at the Côte d’Azur Observatory funded by a European Marie-Curie postdoctoral grant.
The Comet Interceptor space mission has been approved by the European Space Agency (ESA) to be the next mission to explore the solar system. Developed in collaboration with the Japanese space agency (JAXA), several national space agencies and research centres in Europe, including CNES and CNRS, Comet Interceptor will be the first space mission to visit a comet from the farthest reaches of the Solar System, or even outside the Solar System. A unique feature of this space mission will be that it will stand by the Solar System before merging with the comet. Such a comet will only be discovered in a few years' time and potentially after Comet Interceptor leaves Earth. In Nice, the Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur is playing a major role in this mission.
In its visit to Psyche, NASA hopes to glimpse the center of the Earth. NASA’s mission to the solar system's largest metallic asteroid promises to show us the iron-nickel core of a dead planet. New research, however, hints that this asteroid is much more. The article was written by Megan I. Gannon for the journal Popular Science. Guy Libourel, professor at the Université Côte d'Azur, and Mark Wieczorek, senior scientist CNRS, lagrange laboratory (CNRS-UCA-OCA) have contributed to this research.
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