Since it began functioning this summer, NASA’s new James Webb Telescope has shown us breathtaking photos of the universe. In addition to displaying spectacular photographs of Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, the JWST has already revealed portions of the cosmos that had never before been seen. However, the telescope’s talents go beyond that.
Researchers have made a significant finding that might pave the way for comparable discoveries on planets more conducive to life. They have found the very first unambiguous trace of carbon dioxide in an exoplanet’s atmosphere. That’s a planet in another star system, 700 light years distant from Earth; it’s a gas giant around a star quite similar to the Sun.
Zafar Rustamkulov, a doctoral student at Johns Hopkins University and part of the JWST Transiting Exoplanet Community Early Release Science team, commented, “The huge carbon dioxide feature attracted me” Crossing a significant milestone in the study of exoplanets was a remarkable occasion.
In light of these results, which have been approved for publication in Nature, it seems that the JWST may be capable of detecting and analyzing CO2 in the atmospheres of tiny planetary bodies. WASP-39 b is a gaseous giant planet that is somewhat bigger than Jupiter. From ground-based studies of the host star’s brightness diminishing when the planet passed in front of it, it was initially identified in 2011.
Only James Webb’s better-infrared sensitivity was able to conclusively prove the existence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of the planet. Earlier investigations had already shown the presence of liquid water, sodium, and potassium in the stratosphere.
Leading the team is Natalie Batalha from the University of California at Santa Cruz. “Sensing such a strong indication of co2 on WASP-39 b bodes well for the identification of atmospheres on smaller, terrestrial-sized planets,” she stated.
The findings, according to NASA, demonstrate the telescope’s capacity to collect information on the makeup, creation, and development of planets across the galaxy.
Another member of the study team, Mike Line of Arizona State University, said that carbon dioxide molecules are sensitive tracers of the tale of planet creation. “We can calculate the ratio of solid to gaseous material that went into creating this gas giant planet by studying this carbon dioxide characteristic. This measurement will be made by James Webb Telescope for many planets over the next decade, shedding light on the specifics of planetary formation and the singularity of our own solar system “.