James Webb Telescope observes atmosphere of an exoplanet, here’s why it is significant


An extraordinary discovery has been made concerning an exoplanet 700 light-years from our solar, thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope. New studies of the extraterrestrial planet WASP-39b show patchy clouds, a fascinating chemical reaction in its atmosphere, and clues about the planet’s origin.

According to a NASA news release, the latest data from Webb includes an extensive list of atoms, compounds, and indications of active chemistry and clouds.

The star that WASP-39b, an exoplanet, orbits is located in the Virgo constellation. In August, Webb found evidence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of the extrasolar planet.

This gas giant is only about a third as big as Jupiter but is chemically more similar to Saturn; it is nevertheless a colossal object in an orbit tighter than Mercury’s.

“We observed the exoplanet with multiple instruments that, together, provide a broad swath of the infrared spectrum and a panoply of chemical fingerprints inaccessible until [this mission],” according to the press release, Natalie Batalha is an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The new research was coordinated and contributed to by Ms Batalha.

Three of the astronomers’ instruments were put to work. They used transmission spectroscopy to look at the starlight that had passed through WASP-39b’s atmosphere, as reported by Nature.com.

There are many more gases than carbon dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere, and the team of more than 300 astronomers was given permission to identify them.

Sulphur dioxide (SO2), a substance created by chemical processes caused by high-energy light from the planet’s parent star, was found for the first time in an exoplanet atmosphere, which is a major discovery.

Also, READ: NASA shares stunning image showing how Earth looks from Moon

The paper’s primary author, Shang-Min Tsai of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, provided an explanation for the presence of sulphur dioxide in the atmosphere of WASP-39 b. Tsai wrote in a press note, “This is the first time we see concrete evidence of photochemistry – chemical reactions initiated by energetic stellar light – on exoplanets.”

Furthermore, “I see this as a really promising outlook for advancing our understanding of exoplanet atmospheres with.”

However, it’s impossible for life on Earth to exist on this exoplanet.



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