James Webb Telescope Snaps Most Detailed Image Of Exoplanet’s Atmosphere

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James Webb Snaps Most Detailed Image Of Exoplanet’s Atmosphere
Photo Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA

It’s hard to keep the James Webb Space Telescope out of action. The most powerful space telescope has yet again delivered on its promise of investigating exoplanets in great detail. The space observatory has now captured the most detailed look of the planet WASP-39 b’s atmosphere.

 

JWST leverages instruments called spectrometers that are capable of breaking light into different wavelengths. This allows the telescope to see which light has been absorbed by different molecules in an atmosphere.

“Game Changer” In Exoplanet Research

JWST’s instruments enable scientists to see the spectra of an exoplanet’s atmosphere, helping them determine the elements present. The researchers describe this as a “game changer” for studying exoplanets.

The exoplanet in the telescope’s latest capture is very hot and orbits its host star every four days. The researchers found water in its atmosphere and also confirmed the presence of carbon dioxide. Most importantly, the team found sulfur dioxide for the first time. This also marks the first time this photochemistry has been found on an exoplanet.

Studying Exoplanet Atmosphere Is Important

Studying an exoplanet’s atmosphere is imperative to understand the planet and how it was formed in the past.

''The moment I first saw the results of my analysis was probably the most exciting moment of my career to date,’’ said Dominique Petit dit de la Roche, one of the researchers. ''The chemical inventory of WASP-39b suggests that the planet was assembled by a succession of mergers with smaller bodies, and that its formation originally took place far from the central star.”

The research is yet to be published in an academic journal. The study has been presented in five papers, out of which, three have been accepted and two are still under review for the journal Nature.

Understand Star Formation In Detail

Recently, the JWST also captured a mind-bending image that has left everyone in awe. According to NASA’s blog post, the telescope leveraged its Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) to capture the "once-hidden features" of star formation.

Previously, the space telescope snapped one of the most beautiful sights in the cosmos -- “Pillars of Creation.” The image offers a detailed look at the cool, dense clouds of hydrogen gas and dust. These “Pillars of Creation” are located around 6,500 light-years away in the Serpens constellation.

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