(Ken Hupp - KPUA) A team of astronomers using the Big Island’s Keck Observatory has discovered water vapor and carbon monoxide in the atmosphere of a giant planet located around a distant star. HR 8799C is one of four gas giants discovered as far back as 2008 and orbiting a star called HR 8799, 130 light years from earth. The planet has a mass several times that of Jupiter, no solid surface under the atmosphere and a temperature of about 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Its believed to have formed in similar fashion to the formation of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
The findings are contained in a paper co-authored by astronomers Bruce McIntosh of California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Travis Barman of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Their paper is available online in Science Express, and will appear March 22 in the journal Science. The discovery was announced in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the Keck Observatory.