Webb detects an exoplanet that smells like rotten eggs

An artist's illustration of the Jupiter-sized exoplanet HD 189733 b
An artist’s illustration of the Jupiter-sized exoplanet HD 189733 b. (Image credit: Roberto Molar Candanosa/ Johns Hopkins University)

Astronomers using data from the James Webb Space Telescope have detected hydrogen sulfide for the first time on another planet outside our solar system.

The Jupiter-sized planet, which is named HD 189733 b, smells like rotten eggs due to the presence of hydrogen sulfide in its atmosphere.

The study was published in the journal Nature on July 8, 2024.

“We’re not looking for life on this planet because it’s way too hot, but finding hydrogen sulfide is a steppingstone for finding this molecule on other planets and gaining more understanding of how different types of planets form,” said Guangwei Fu, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University who led the study.

Fu’s team also precisely detected water, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide in the atmosphere of HD 189733 b, in addition to hydrogen sulfide. 

The new data from the James Webb Space Telescope not only detected hydrogen sulfide but also ruled out the presence of methane in HD 189733 b with unprecedented precision. Methane was previously claimed to be present in the atmosphere of HD 189733 b.

About HD 189733 b

HD 189733 b is an exoplanet, meaning it is a planet that orbits around the star HD 189733 outside our solar system. The planet is located 64 light-years away from Earth.

HD 189733 b is called a “hot Jupiter” type exoplanet as the size of the planet is comparable to Jupiter and it has a scorching temperature of 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit. 

HD 189733 b takes only 2.2 Earth days to orbit its star, as the planet is about 13 times closer to its star than Mercury is to the sun.

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Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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