“Because these are gas giants, detecting the molecules at the top of the atmosphere also offers a window into the internal structure as the gases mix with the deeper layers.”
Astronomers can study a distant planet’s atmosphere by analysing the light passing through it.
As the light skims the top of the atmosphere, its spectrum is shifted and specific wavelengths of light can then be matched to specific chemicals in the air.
The Warwick researchers modelled two “warm Neptune” planets to see how a high-resolution spectrograph would fare.
Simulations of the planets GJ3470b and GJ436b found at high resolution, astronomers can detect trace amounts of water vapour, ammonia and methane with ground-based telescopes.