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Searching for water in the atmosphere of a Neptune-mass exoplanet HAT-P-26b

HAT-P-26b is an inflated, Neptune-mass exoplanet located about 437 light years from Earth, which orbits its parent star HAT-P-26 every 4.23 days. The planet has a relatively low surface gravity that is well suited for atmospheric characterization. However, we still know very little about the gas layer around this distant alien world. A team of astronomers led by Kevin B. Stevenson of the University of Chicago wants to change that, presenting new insights on the atmosphere of this celestial body. In research dedicated to determining the composition of HAT-P-26b's atmosphere and finding traces of water vapor in it, the scientists made use of data provided by the Low Dispersion Survey Spectrograph 3C (LDSS-3C) instrument and NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. LDSS-3C is an optical imager and (multi-) slit spectrograph on the 6.5m Magellan II (Clay) telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. The results, based on LDSS-3C and Spitzer data, were published on Dec. 24 in the arXiv pre-print server.

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