NASA’s James Webb discovers his first PLANET just 41 light-years away
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has discovered its first planet – and the rocky world is similar in size to our own.
Formally as LHS 475 b. classified, the exoplanet is 99 percent of Earth’s diameter, and while it’s terrestrial, scientists don’t yet know if it has an atmosphere.
Although the team cannot determine what is present, they have ruled out a thick methane-dominated atmosphere similar to that of Saturn’s moon Titan.
JWST revealed the planet, 41 light-years away, is a few hundred degrees warmer than Earth and will complete one orbit in two days.
Such exoplanets have remained “invisible” to space telescopes, but JWST is once again proving the power of its technology.
NASA has announced that its James Webb Telescope has discovered its first planet. Formally classified as LHS 475 b (artist’s impression shown), the exoplanet is 99 percent the diameter of Earth
Mark Clampin, director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement: “These first observations from an Earth-sized rocky planet open the door to many future possibilities for studying rocky planet atmospheres with Webb.
“Webb is bringing us closer to a new understanding of Earth-like worlds outside our solar system, and the mission is just beginning.”
While the discovery is startling, scientists are now working to determine what the planet’s atmosphere is made of.
The team notes that while the planet has no atmosphere, some atmospheric compositions, such as a pure carbon dioxide atmosphere, have not been ruled out.
Jacob Lustig-Yaeger, both of Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, said in a statement: “By contrast, a 100 percent carbon dioxide atmosphere is so much more compact that it becomes very difficult to detect.”
Even more precise measurements are needed for the team to distinguish a pure carbon dioxide atmosphere from no atmosphere at all.
Researchers are scheduled to receive additional spectra with upcoming observations this summer.
“We are at the forefront of exploring small, rocky exoplanets,” said Lustig-Yaeger.
JWST revealed the planet, 41 light-years away, is a few hundred degrees warmer than Earth and will complete one orbit in two days
The team tried to assess what’s in the planet’s atmosphere by analyzing its transmission spectrum. Although the data shows that this is an Earth-sized terrestrial planet, they don’t yet know if it has an atmosphere
Instruments at the James Webb Telescope
NIRCam (Near InfraRed Camera) an infrared imaging device from the edge of the visible through the near infrared
NIRSpec (Near InfraRed Spectrograph) will also perform spectroscopy over the same wavelength range.
MIRI (Mid-InfraRed Instrument) will measure the mid to long infrared wavelength range from 5 to 27 microns.
FGS/NIRISS (Fine Guidance Sensor and Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph) is used to stabilize the observatory’s line of sight during scientific observations.
“We’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what their atmospheres might look like.”
The researchers’ findings have opened up the possibility of locating Earth-sized planets orbiting smaller red dwarf stars.
“This confirmation of the rocky planet underscores the precision of the mission’s instruments,” Stevenson said.
“And it’s just the first of many discoveries it will make.” Lustig-Jaeger agreed. “With this telescope, rocky exoplanets are the new frontier.”
While scientists don’t know what the atmosphere is made of, JWST has the ability to find out.
NASA announced in November that the telescope had successfully revealed the composition of an exoplanet’s atmosphere in never-before-seen detail, and the milestone suggests it could also be searching for extraterrestrial life.
JWST’s powerful instruments detected atoms and molecules, along with evidence of active chemistry and clouds – features that Hubble and Spitzer failed to detect when they observed the planet and those that hold evidence of signs of life.
Astronomers used WASP-39b, a hot Saturn 700 light-years from Earth, to test the telescope’s capabilities. The telescope used its infrared capabilities to capture colors and chemical fingerprints that cannot be seen in visible light.
The new findings, considered “game changers,” could reveal how this exoplanet formed at a young age from the disk of gas and dust that surrounded the parent star.
WASP-39b orbits a host star eight times closer to our sun than Mercury, which astronomers say should provide a deeper understanding of how these processes affect the diversity of planets observed in the galaxy.
A lightcurve from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope near-infrared spectrograph (NIRSpec) shows the change in brightness of the star system LHS 475 over time as the planet passed the star on August 31, 2022 — and how the telescope spotted it
To unravel the mysteries of the exoplanet, JWST tracked the planet as it passed in front of its star, filtering some of its light through its atmosphere.
“Different types of chemicals in the atmosphere absorb different colors of the starlight spectrum, so the missing colors tell astronomers which molecules are present,” NASA said in Tuesday’s announcement.
“By viewing the universe in infrared light, Webb can see chemical fingerprints that cannot be seen in visible light.”
The telescope also detected a number of elements including sodium (Na), potassium (K) and water vapor (H2O) in the exoplanet’s atmosphere.
These confirm what was previously captured by space and ground-based telescopic observations, but JWST found additional fingerprints of water at these longer wavelengths not previously seen.
Carbon dioxide was also found in the new data, detected at higher resolutions, yielding twice as much as previously observed.
And while carbon monoxide was detected, astronomers didn’t identify methane (CH4) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in the data.
The James Webb Telescope: NASA’s $10 billion telescope was designed to discover light from the earliest stars and galaxies
The James Webb Telescope has been described as a “time machine” that could help unlock the mysteries of our universe.
The telescope will be used to look back to the first galaxies born in the early Universe more than 13.5 billion years ago and to observe the sources of stars, exoplanets and even the moons and planets of our solar system.
The giant telescope, which has already cost more than $7 billion (£5 billion), is believed to be the successor to the Hubble orbiting space telescope
The James Webb Telescope and most of its instruments have an operating temperature of about 40 Kelvin – about minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 degrees Celsius).
It is the largest and most powerful orbital space telescope in the world, able to look back 100 to 200 million years after the Big Bang.
The orbiting infrared observatory is said to be about 100 times more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.
NASA considers James Webb to be Hubble’s successor rather than a replacement as the two will be working together for a while.
The Hubble Telescope was launched on April 24, 1990 aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
It orbits the Earth at a speed of about 17,000 mph (27,300 km/h) in low Earth orbit at about 340 miles altitude.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-11624673/NASAs-James-Webb-discovers-PLANET-just-41-light-years-away-similar-Earth.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 NASA’s James Webb discovers his first PLANET just 41 light-years away