Rotten Eggs Chemical Detected on Jupiter-like Alien Planet

An artist's concept of the planet HD 189733b located 64 light-years from Earth. Roberto Molar Candanosa/Johns Hopkins University/Handout via REUTERS
An artist's concept of the planet HD 189733b located 64 light-years from Earth. Roberto Molar Candanosa/Johns Hopkins University/Handout via REUTERS
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Rotten Eggs Chemical Detected on Jupiter-like Alien Planet

An artist's concept of the planet HD 189733b located 64 light-years from Earth. Roberto Molar Candanosa/Johns Hopkins University/Handout via REUTERS
An artist's concept of the planet HD 189733b located 64 light-years from Earth. Roberto Molar Candanosa/Johns Hopkins University/Handout via REUTERS

The planet known as HD 189733b, discovered in 2005, already had a reputation as a rather extreme place, a scorching hot gas giant a bit larger than Jupiter that is a striking cobalt blue color and has molten glass rain that blows sideways in its fierce atmospheric winds. So how can you top that?
Add hydrogen sulfide, the chemical compound behind the stench of rotten eggs, Reuters reported. Researchers said on Monday new data from the James Webb Space Telescope is giving a fuller picture of HD 189733b, already among the most thoroughly studied exoplanets, as planets beyond our solar system are called. A trace amount of hydrogen sulfide was detected in its atmosphere, a first for any exoplanet.
"Yes, the stinky smell would certainly add to its already infamous reputation. This is not a planet we humans want to visit, but a valuable target for furthering our understanding of planetary science," said astrophysicist Guangwei Fu of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature.
It is a type called a "hot Jupiter" - gas giants similar to the largest planet in our solar system, only much hotter owing to their close proximity to their host stars. This planet orbits 170 times closer to its host star than Jupiter does to the sun. It completes one orbit every two days as opposed to the 12 years Jupiter takes for one orbit of the sun.
In fact, its orbit is 13 times nearer to its host star than our innermost planet Mercury is to the sun, leaving the temperature on the side of the planet facing the star at about 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit (930 degrees Celsius).
"They are quite rare," Fu said of hot Jupiters. "About less than one in 100 star systems have them."
This planet is located 64 light-years from Earth, considered in our neighborhood within the Milky Way galaxy, in the constellation Vulpecula. A light-year is the distance light travels in a year, 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km).
"The close distance makes it bright and easy for detailed studies. For example, the hydrogen sulfide detection reported here would be much more challenging to make on other faraway planets," Fu said.
The star it orbits is smaller and cooler than the sun, and only about a third as luminous. That star is part of a binary system, meaning it is gravitationally bound to another star.
Webb, which became operational in 2022, observes a wider wavelength range than earlier space telescopes, allowing for more thorough examinations of exoplanet atmospheres.
"Our research finds that HD 189733b is more similar to Jupiter than previously known," Arizona State University astrophysicist and study co-author Luis Welbanks said. "This planet is very much like Jupiter, but just hotter."
Jupiter, too, has trace amounts of hydrogen sulfide in its atmosphere. This planet is about 10% larger than Jupiter in diameter and mass.
In addition to detecting hydrogen sulfide, a sulfur-containing molecule, Webb observations showed that this planet has water and carbon dioxide in its atmosphere, as earlier data also indicated.
"With these three molecules, we are able to count the amount of oxygen, carbon and sulfur the planet has, giving us an opportunity to understand how the planet may have formed and whether it is different or not to the planets in our solar system," Welbanks said.
The Webb observations also ruled out the presence of methane in the planet's atmosphere.
"Understanding the composition of this and other exoplanets allows us to understand how unique our own solar system is and helps us place our existence in context," Welbanks added.
"While we are not searching for life on HD 189733b - it is too hot, made up mostly of hydrogen and helium, it's not like Earth, et cetera - understanding its atmosphere allows us to understand how physics and chemistry behave under different environments and to begin to put together the 'recipe' for forming planets."



Moonlit Scramble across the Sand for Türkiye Booming Baby Turtle Population

Baby loggerhead sea turtles' first challenge in life is a wobbly dash across the sand. KEMAL ASLAN / AFP
Baby loggerhead sea turtles' first challenge in life is a wobbly dash across the sand. KEMAL ASLAN / AFP
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Moonlit Scramble across the Sand for Türkiye Booming Baby Turtle Population

Baby loggerhead sea turtles' first challenge in life is a wobbly dash across the sand. KEMAL ASLAN / AFP
Baby loggerhead sea turtles' first challenge in life is a wobbly dash across the sand. KEMAL ASLAN / AFP

The baby loggerhead sea turtles emerged from their eggshells and began their first challenge in life: a wobbly dash across the sand to the moonlit waters of Türkiye’s Mediterranean coast -- sometimes with a helping hand from volunteers.
It is a perilous journey into the unknown for the sea turtles as only about one in 1,000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood.
Some 25 years later, the females will return to the beach where they were born to lay their own eggs.
Despite grave threats from humans and predators such as birds, crabs and ants, protection measures are bearing fruit on Türkiye's southern coast.
In Manavgat, a tourist hotspot nestled in the foothills of mountains and prized for its golden sands and stunning waterfall, the number of nests has doubled from last year to 700.
A group of volunteers holds vigil around the clock along the 10-kilometer (six-mile) coastline, located east of the local tourism capital of Antalya.
It is a major breeding area for the globally endangered loggerheads -- also known as caretta caretta -- which are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) red list of threatened species.
"Our average estimate this year is around 60,000 eggs; 30,000 of them will become babies; only 30 of them will come back years later" to breed, Seher Akyol, founding president of DEKAFOK marine conservation center, told AFP.
Red lights
Türkiye's southern coast is home to 21 official nesting areas -- eight of them in Antalya alone.
Protection measures have been put in place such as limiting the use of light and the speed of sea vessels.
Many beaches are declared protected areas and are off-limits from 8 pm to 8 am.
Manavgat, though, is not one of them, so volunteers have taken on the task of protecting the breeding nests.
Akyol's volunteers, including young students from all over Türkiye and abroad, mark the nests, framing them with sticks and keeping the eggs protected from sunbathers.
At night, they patrol beaches, dig in nests with their bare hands and, donning white gloves, help baby turtles break from their shells and crawl to the sea.
Local officials also support volunteer initiatives.
Manavgat's mayor, Niyazi Nefi Kara, has placed red lights on roadsides along the coast. Signs that read "Attention! Caretta Nesting Area" dot the beach.
Under the environment law, anyone who damages sea turtles and their nests can be fined 387,141 liras ($11,700).
Kara said his office takes advice from "scientists and environmentalists" on protecting the turtles.
"After all, we need to learn how to live in harmony with nature," he said.
Akyol added that "people and caretta caretta can live together".
Songul Sert, 33, who was picnicking with her family around a wooden table near the beach, said "we do our best so as not to usurp their living space" with help from the signs.
Another local, Hasan Gulec, said that previously a lack of signs meant that "nobody knew where they were breeding, so anyone could walk on nests".
However, an AFP team saw some hotels along the beach still using the bright white lights that anger environmentalists.
-Climate change-
Loggerheads, whose overall numbers are unknown, can live for up to 80 years. Their weight ranges from 90-180 kilograms (200-400 pounds) and they can reach 1.2 meters (four feet) in length.
The small percentage of hatchlings that return to the beach to breed is why "they are endangered and need to be protected," Professor Mehmet Cengiz Deval of Akdeniz University's faculty of fisheries told AFP.
Loggerhead sea turtles are found primarily in subtropical and temperate regions of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, and in the Mediterranean Sea.
According to IUCN, the Mediterranean loggerhead is considered of "least concern", though the species remains vulnerable globally.
Climate change is also a factor that threatens the species.
The sex of hatchlings is determined by the temperature of the sand: cooler temperatures produce males and warmer ones produce females.
High temperatures from July onwards means that "most of the babies are females," Deval said.
"If this trend continues, in 30-40 years females will be the majority and there will be no male partners for them to breed. This is the biggest danger."
Akyol, who dreams of building a rehabilitation center to treat injured turtles, cannot hide her excitement each time she sends them off to the water.
"I cannot forget their last look before meeting with the water," she said. "It's as if they show how grateful they are."