Site icon The Bobr Times

An extraterrestrial molecule found by pure chance

An alien molecule found by pure chance

BETTING À DAY

Researchers from an international team of astrophysicists partly based in Montreal have just discovered an unknown extraterrestrial molecule on a planet outside our solar system 

“This molecule does not correspond to any other that we expected to find. It was a surprise,” explains astrophysicist Björn Benneke, professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Montreal and member of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets.

He and five other Quebecers worked in collaboration with 125 scientists in 12 countries as part of the first month of activity of the James Webb Space Telescope, in July. 

The planet WASP-39b where finds this molecule is located 700 light-years from Earth, in the constellation of Virgo.

Any form of life is impossible there due to its proximity to its star: the temperature is 900° C on average. That of the Earth is 15°C.

Mystery molecule 

Astrophysicists were looking for proof of the presence of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the planet's atmosphere, which they obtained after four hours of observation.

But their biggest surprise was to note the presence of an unidentified molecule in a large enough quantity to be taken into consideration.

When they compared the spectral signature of this molecule to the most frequent compounds of distant planets (nitric oxide, methane, oxygen, hydrogen sulphide and water vapour), at the beginning of August, they did not found no similarities.

At this time, the researchers cannot raise any hypotheses on the chemical composition of this molecule and its role in the atmosphere of the targeted planet, but this work has just passed at the top of the list of scientific priorities for researchers. 

“We independently analyzed the data from the observation mission on our own. We came to the same conclusion. This planet seems to possess a molecule that has never been described,” enthuses Professor Benneke.

To be continued

Regarding the “mystery” molecule, astrophysicist Robert Lamontagne believes that it is “too early to say that it is new to science”. 

Comparisons that will be carried out in the coming months may reveal a relationship with molecules known elsewhere in the universe or on Earth 

WASP-39B PLANET 

Do you have a scoop for us?

Do you have something to share with us about this story?

Do you have a scoop that our readers might be interested in?

Email us at or call us directly at 1 800-63SCOOP.

Exit mobile version