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  • richardmitnick 10:50 pm on July 30, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Astronomers study a hot Jupiter in unprecedented detail thanks to SPIRou!", , , Canada France Hawaii Telescope, , , Mauna Kea Observatory, , The exoplanet Tau Boötis b and its host star Tau Boötis,   

    From Canada France Hawaii Telescope, Mauna Kea Observatory, Hawaii, USA: “Astronomers study a hot Jupiter in unprecedented detail thanks to SPIRou!” 

    From Canada France Hawaii Telescope, Mauna Kea Observatory, Hawaii, USA


    Media Contact
    Mary Beth Laychak
    director of strategic communications, Canada-France-Hawai’i Telescope

    Scientific Contacts
    Stefan Pelletier (lead author)
    Ph.D. Candidate, Institute for Research on Exoplanets
    Université de Montréal, Montréal, Canada

    Björn Benneke (co-author)
    Professor, Institute for Research on Exoplanets
    Université de Montréal, Montréal, Canada

    Artistic rendition of the exoplanet Tau Boötis b and its host star, Tau Boötis.
    Image credits: Credit: L. Calçada. European Southern Observatory [Observatoire européen austral][Europäische Südsternwarte] (EU) (CL).

    An international team of astronomers has measured the most precise composition of the hot Jupiter Tau Boötis b’s atmosphere, providing us with a better understanding of giant planets. Using the SPIRou spectropolarimeter at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii, a team led by Stefan Pelletier, a PhD student at University of Montréal [Université de Montréal] (CA)‘s Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx), studied the atmosphere of the gas giant exoplanet Tau Boötis b, a scorching hot world that takes a mere three days to orbit its host star.

    Their detailed analysis, presented in a paper published today in The Astronomical Journal, shows that the atmosphere of the gaseous planet contains carbon monoxide, as expected, but surprisingly did not identify water, a molecule that was anticipated to be prevalent and should be easily detectable with SPIRou.

    Tau Boötis b is a planet that is 6.24 times more massive than Jupiter and 8 times closer to its parent star than Mercury to the Sun. Its host star, Tau Boötis, located 51 light years from Earth is 40% more massive than the sun and is one of the brightest known planet-bearing stars in the sky.

    Discovered in 1996, Tau Boötis b was one of the first exoplanets ever detected thanks to the radial velocity method. The radial velocity method studies the slight back-and-forth motion of a star generated by the gravitational tug of its planet.

    The planet’s atmospheric composition has been studied a handful of times before, but never with an instrument as powerful as SPIRou.

    “SPIRou’s high resolution and infrared wavelength range open a new window into the atmosphere of planets likeTau Boötis b,” says Dr. Luc Arnold, CFHT resident astronomer and SPIRou instrument scientist. “These are the kinds of observations that the instrument was designed for and we look forward to seeing what SPIRou uncovers next.”

    Studying hot Jupiters to better understand Jupiter and Saturn

    “Hot Jupiters like Tau Boötis b offer an unprecedented opportunity to probe giant planet formation”, said co-author Björn Benneke, astrophysics professor and Pelletier’s PhD supervisor at Université de Montréal. “The composition of the planet gives clues as to where and how this giant planet formed.”

    The key to revealing the formation location and mechanism of giant planets is imprinted in their atmospheric composition. The extreme temperature of hot Jupiters allows most molecules in their atmospheres to be in gaseous form and detectable with current instruments, enabling astronomers to precisely measure the content of their atmospheres.

    “In our Solar System, Jupiter and Saturn are much colder,” continues Benneke. “Some molecules such as water are frozen and hidden deep in their atmospheres. Thus, we have a very poor knowledge of their abundance. Studying exoplanets provides a better way to understand our own giant planets. For example, the low amount of water on Tau boötis b could mean that our own Jupiter is drier than we had previously thought.”

    SPIRou: a unique instrument

    Tau Boötis b is one of the first planets studied with SPIRou, which started observations at CFHT in 2018. SPIRou is an infrared spectropolarimeter which takes the light from a single object and breaks the light into its component infrared colors; colors our eyes are unable to detect. The observations allow astronomers to study the object’s characteristics– temperature, motion, and in the case of Tau Boötis b, the composition of the planet’s atmosphere.

    “This spectropolarimeter can analyze the planet’s thermal light — the light emitted by the planet itself — in an unprecedentedly large range of colours, and with a resolution that allows for the identification of many molecules at once: water, carbon monoxide, methane, etc.” explains iREx researcher Neil Cook, a co-author that is an expert on the SPIRou instrument.

    The team spent 20 hours observing the exoplanet with SPIRou between April 2019 and June 2020. This exquisite dataset allowed the researchers to make a detailed analysis of the molecular content of the hot Jupiter’s atmosphere.

    “We measured the abundance of all major molecules that contain either carbon or oxygen,” explains Pelletier. “Since they are the two most abundant elements in the universe, after hydrogen and helium, that gives us a very complete picture of the content of the atmosphere.”

    Tau Boötis b, like most planets, does not pass in front of its star as it orbits around it, from Earth’s point of view. Previously, the study of exoplanet atmospheres has mostly been limited to these “transiting” planets – those that cause periodic dips in the brightness of their star when they pass between us and the star, blocking some of the light.

    “It is the first time we got such precise measurements on the atmospheric composition of a non-transiting exoplanet. This work opens the dloor to studying in detail the atmospheres of a large number of exoplanets, even those that do not transit their star,” explains PhD student Caroline Piaulet, also a co-author of the study.

    Searching for water

    Assuming a similar composition as in the Solar System, models show that water vapour should be present in large quantities in the atmosphere of an exoplanet similar to Tau Boötis b. It should thus have been easy to detect with an instrument such as SPIRou.

    “We expected a strong detection of water, with maybe a little carbon monoxide,” explains Pelletier. “We were, however, surprised to find the opposite, carbon monoxide, but no water.”

    The team worked hard to make sure the results could not be attributed to problems with the instrument or the analysis of the data.

    “Once we’ve convinced ourselves the content of water was indeed much lower than expected on Tau Boötis b, we were able to start searching for formation mechanisms that could explain this,” says Pelletier.

    A composition similar to Jupiter

    The analysis of Pelletier and colleagues allowed them to conclude that Tau Boötis b’s atmospheric composition has roughly five times as much carbon as that found in the Sun, quantities similar to that measured for Jupiter.

    This may be a hint that hot Jupiters could form much further from their host star, at distances that are similar to the giant planets in our Solar System, and simply experienced a different evolution, which included a migration towards the star.

    “According to what we found for Tau Böotis b, it would seem that, at least composition-wise, hot Jupiters may not be so different from our own Solar System giant planets after all,” concludes Pelletier.

    In addition to Stefan Pelletier, Björn Benneke, Neil Cook and Caroline Piaulet, the team includes Institute for Research on Exoplanets [Institut de recherche sur les exoplanètes]University of Montréal [Université de Montréal] (CA) members Antoine Darveau-Bernier, Anne Boucher, Louis-Philippe Coulombe, Étienne Artigau, David Lafrenière, Simon Delisle, Romain Allart, René Doyon, Charles Cadieux and Thomas Vandal, all based at University of Montréal [Université de Montréal] (CA), and seven other co-authors from France, the United States, Portugal and Brazil.

    Funding was provided by the the Technologies for Exo-Planetary Science (TEPS) CREATE program, the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (FRQNT), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Trottier Family Foundation and the French National Research Agency (ANR).

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Canada France Hawaii Telescope Observatory (US) hosts a world-class, 3.6 meter optical/infrared telescope. The observatory is located atop the summit of Mauna Kea, a 4200 meter, dormant volcano located on the island of Hawaii, USA.

    The CFH Telescope became operational in 1979. The mission of CFHT is to provide for its user community a versatile and state-of-the-art astronomical observing facility which is well matched to the scientific goals of that community and which fully exploits the potential of the Mauna Kea site.

  • richardmitnick 11:20 am on March 8, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "An Open Letter to Telescope Protesters in Hawaii", , , , , Mauna Kea Observatory, ,   

    From Nautilus: “An Open Letter to Telescope Protesters in Hawaii” 

    From Nautilus

    March 5, 2020
    Dana Mackenzie


    Why Astronomy on Mauna Kea is not a desecration but a duty.

    On July 15, 2019, after a court decision had cleared the way for astronomers to build a new mega-telescope, called the Thirty Meter Telescope, on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, a large group of protesters said, “No.” Pitching their camp directly on the access road to the top of Mauna Kea, the protesters, who called themselves kia’i mauna (protectors of the mountain), pledged to stop any construction vehicles from passing. The kia’i argue that the mountain is sacred to the native Hawaiian people, and that the construction of the TMT would desecrate it.

    When I heard about the protest I was torn apart, because I felt forced to choose between my two favorite ohanas (families). Though I am not an astronomer, I have been a science writer for 23 years and a mathematician before that, so I am part of the larger science ohana. Likewise, I have been a hula dancer for 15 years. Hula is simply a way of telling a story, and men have been part of that folk tradition from the beginning. Dancing with my hula sisters (and occasionally brothers) has taught me to admire the Hawaiian culture, especially their reverence for their land.

    The kia’i have always said that their complaint is not against science, and I take them at their word. Nevertheless, if you are protesting something it is important to know what you are protesting against. I believe that they have missed one crucial fact about the TMT within the context of Hawaiian culture. The astronomers, likewise, have failed to explain the telescope’s value to native Hawaiians in spiritual terms, rather than its value to science or the economy. I hope to bridge that communication gap. In this article I will speak for both of my families, using “we” to mean both astronomers and hula dancers, depending on the context.

    Dear kia’i mauna,

    I greet you in the name of Wakea, the sky god who created the Hawaiian islands and the mountain on which you stand. As you have said many times, Mauna Kea is only a contraction of its full name, Mauna a Wakea—or Wakea’s mountain.

    For our readers on the mainland, who may not have followed the drama on Mauna Kea closely, I would like to begin by celebrating some of your accomplishments. First and foremost among these, you have introduced the world to the concept of kapu aloha. This is a code that requires the protesters to maintain proper (pono) and respectful behavior at all times, without anger. Your adherence to this code has prevented any violence aside from the first week, when the police arrested some of your leaders. Your movement follows in the exemplary lineage of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. I consider kapu aloha to be spiritually identical with Gandhi’s concept of satyagraha, which means “truth power.” Likewise, telling the truth is at the heart of kapu aloha.

    You have also inspired and connected with indigenous people and their sympathizers around the world. As a student of hula, I could feel the joy in your tent when you chanted the oli and danced the hula in praise of the mountain, the waters, and the people who are defending their beliefs. When you came to my town of Santa Cruz, California, in November, you invited Valentin Lopez of the local Amah Mutsun tribe to speak, and he said, “We [indigenous people] are the only people with the moral authority to speak for this land.” These kinds of conflicts have arisen before. The Tohono O’odham Nation protested the VERITAS gamma ray detector on Kitt Peak in Arizona, and the San Carlos Apache opposed several telescopes on Mt. Graham, also in Arizona.

    CfA/VERITAS, a major ground-based gamma-ray observatory with an array of four Čerenkov Telescopes for gamma-ray astronomy in the GeV – TeV energy range. Located at Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory,Mount Hopkins, Arizona, US in AZ, USA, Altitude 2,606 m (8,550 ft)

    U Arizona Submillimeter Telescope located on Mt. Graham near Safford, Arizona, USA, Altitude 3,191 m (10,469 ft)

    Both tribes succeeded at delaying, preventing, or relocating these telescopes. Of course, the use of sacred lands is only one of the many challenges facing indigenous peoples. But I believe that protests related to sacred lands have been especially effective, precisely because they force American society to confront and acknowledge your deepest values as a people.

    That brings me to your third accomplishment: You are changing the culture of Astronomy. It is no accident that we always want to put telescopes on mountaintops, and these mountains are usually sacred to somebody. We are not entitled to build there. We need to ask permission, humbly. And asking permission means accepting that the answer might be “no.” This is where the TMT board failed. They thought that once they held a hearing and received a permit, their job was done. We need to learn that hearings are not the same as listening, and a permit is not the same as permission.

    EYE OF THE STORM: The Thirty Meter Telescope, seen here in an artist rendering, would be the largest visible-light telescope in the Northern Hemisphere, allowing astronomers to explore exoplanets and the formation of stars and galaxies. Mauna Kea is an ideal site for capturing sharp images, scientists say, because Hawaii’s atmosphere is calm, cool, and often free of clouds and weather.TMT International Observatory.

    I now come to the more difficult part of this letter, in which I tell you that the kia’i, too, have overlooked something. You are much more like the astronomers than you realize. Both of you, native Hawaiians and astronomers, learn by careful observation (maka’ala). You are kia’i mauna, watchers of the mountain. They are kia’i o na hoku, watchers of the stars. Each of you needs the other. Separately, you are out of balance. The kia’i mauna focus on their responsibility to their land and are blind (alas) to the epochal changes going on in our knowledge of the stars. The kia’i o na hoku focus on their quest to understand the skies, and forget sometimes their responsibility to the earth and its inhabitants. The two of you need each other and always will, and for that reason this drama cannot end with the victory of one side over the other. The only end is reconciliation, which can only come through dialogue conducted in the spirit of aloha.

    I mentioned above the new things we are learning about the stars. Let me explain what I mean. Beginning in the mid-1990s, astronomers found ways to indirectly detect exoplanets, or planets orbiting other stars. We recognize them either through the wobble they create in their parent stars’ orbits, or through the slight dimming of the star when the planet passes in front. We cannot yet see these exoplanets directly, because we do not have telescopes that are powerful enough. That is what the Thirty Meter Telescope is for. More than that, the TMT would give us the ability to probe those planets’ atmospheres and look for oxygen. If we find that, it will be a sign to us: “Here is life.”

    According to Hawaiian legend, in the early days of creation, the gods spoke with man through the kahunas, and man spoke with the gods. The gods are still speaking to man, but in a different way than before. One thing we are learning from them is that our sky father, Wakea, was much busier than we thought. He created millions of other worlds. And on some of these planets, the most favored ones, he may have created other living beings.

    We do not know what form they may have. They may be nothing more than one-celled organisms. We do not even have scientific proof that they exist, in part because we do not have the TMT yet. But I feel sure that there are some among you, dear kia’i, who know in your gut—in your na’au—that life does exist out there in the cosmos. If you know this, then you must know also that they are your family. They are your cousins just as surely as the taro plant, Wakea’s firstborn child, is your brother.

    When you propose to shut down the TMT, you are proposing that we should shut our eyes to our own family. Your own family. This has nothing to do with being for or against science. It is not pono. It violates what I have learned about Hawaiian culture, that ohana comes first.

    As you know, the astronomers have a plan B, to build the telescope in the Canary Islands. Gordon Squires, vice president for external affairs of the TMT, tells me that the effect will be to make the science take twice as long, because there are about half as many nights with good seeing on the Canary Islands. Still, the universe can wait. The one-celled organisms will still be there even if we take twice as long to find them.

    I’m not worried about that. I’m worried about you, native Hawaiians. What will be the effect on you when you abandon your kuleana, your responsibility to Wakea? He brought you to this island and made you stewards of this unique mountain, the mountain you named after him. Mauna Kea is the umbilical cord joining earth to the stars. It is a place that Wakea has designated for looking up as well as for looking down. He could not entrust this place to anyone else. He had to choose gatekeepers who could look in both directions: a caretaking people who valued their connection to the earth, and a voyaging people who valued their connection to the stars. He would not want you to succeed in only half of your mission.

    Suppose that, by the power of kapu aloha and the grace of the gods, you agree that my words are true. What then would I ask you to do? I would ask for only one change at first, small but profound. Over and over, the kia’i have referred to the TMT as a “desecration” of the sacred mountain. It is not, and the word should not be uttered again. Instead I ask you to acknowledge that the observatory will consecrate a small part of the mountain to a purpose intended by your own gods. Your mission is not to oppose this consecration, but to make sure that it is done right. Be pono, and make sure that the astronomers are pono too.

    What do I mean by “doing it right”? A long list of things, some of which may not be easy. First, there should be native Hawaiian astronomers. Jessica Dempsey, deputy director of the East Asian Observatory, says that there are currently no native Hawaiian astronomers at any of the 13 telescopes on the mountain.

    Mauna Kea Observatory Hawaii USA

    This is a scandal. Though there are many native Hawaiian engineers doing outstanding work on the mountain, it is the astronomers who provide the vision, and they cannot fulfill their job without native Hawaiian eyes.

    When I call for native Hawaiian astronomers, it is of course the responsibility of the astronomy community, but it is also your responsibility. Brialyn Onodera, a native Hawaiian engineer who works at one of the telescopes on Maui, wrote in the Honolulu Civil Beat that the protests have created a climate in which “telescope” has become a dirty word. (She is not the only one saying this; I have interviewed others.)

    You, the kia’i, can reverse this message. You can teach native Hawaiian children that astronomy is a sacred responsibility (or kuleana) that has been given to your people. Teach your children that there are two types of astronomy, just as there are two types of hula. We have kahiko, done in the ancient style with no instruments except chanting and drums, and we have ‘auana, done in the modern style, with Western music and instruments. No one protests against hula ‘auana, or calls it a desecration. We all recognize that it is another valid expression of what it means to be Hawaiian. Likewise, you can encourage some of your children to become kahiko astronomers, practicing the ancient methods of navigation, while others become ‘auana astronomers, fulfilling their kuleana with the best instruments that Western science can devise. Both of these missions should be treated with equal respect.

    Should you reverse your opposition to the TMT, a cause that some of you have given 10 years of your life to? I leave this choice to your own conscience. In any case, there is other work to be done. The Master Lease awarding management of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve to the University of Hawaii will expire in 2033. It seems to me that any decision about individual facilities should wait until the issue of who will manage the mountain next is resolved. The kia’i deserve a place at the table, and I hope you will take it. You have earned the power to say no, but you have also earned something greater: the power to say yes.

    This voyage of discovery, this quest to reunite the family of Wakea, will not be a short one. It will not end when TMT is built, or not built. It will not end when the Master Lease is renewed, or not renewed. The quest will last for centuries. All that we are asking, all that the gods are asking, and all that your children are asking, is for you to join us. At the helm, where you have always been.

    In the spirit of kapu aloha,

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Welcome to Nautilus. We are delighted you joined us. We are here to tell you about science and its endless connections to our lives. Each month we choose a single topic. And each Thursday we publish a new chapter on that topic online. Each issue combines the sciences, culture and philosophy into a single story told by the world’s leading thinkers and writers. We follow the story wherever it leads us. Read our essays, investigative reports, and blogs. Fiction, too. Take in our games, videos, and graphic stories. Stop in for a minute, or an hour. Nautilus lets science spill over its usual borders. We are science, connected.

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