(ORDO NEWS) — Since its launch in December 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has been breaking records.
Now the instrument has detected its first planet around a star other than our own, and with an estimated diameter of about 99 percent of Earth‘s , it looks somewhat familiar.
Observations from NASA‘s Transiting Exoplanet Exploration Satellite (TESS) hinted that the planet was there, but now high-resolution images offered by the Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) aboard JWST have confirmed it.
Despite the similarity in size, the planet is believed to be much hotter than our home planet as it orbits a red dwarf. enough to complete an orbit in just two days.
“There is no doubt that the planet is there,” says astronomer Jacob Lustig-Jaeger of the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University in Meriel. and. “Webb’s initial data confirmed this.”
This newly discovered object lies 41 light-years away in the constellation Octans and has been designated LHS 475 b. As with other exoplanets, it has been spotted looking at the shadow created as it passes in front of its star.
What makes JWST special is that it can look at transmission spectra; the range of wavelengths of light filtered around a planet can reveal the properties of its atmosphere.
At the moment, we don’t have enough data to tell us what kind of atmosphere LHS 475 b has, if any.
Astronomers still believe it doesn’t have a thick, methane-rich atmosphere like the one that surrounds Saturn’s moon Titan.
“The telescope is so sensitive and the data so accurate that we could easily detect several different molecules, but we don’t see much yet,” says astrophysicist Ortiz Ceballos of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Massachusetts.
But they cannot rule out a surface atmosphere composed of pure carbon dioxide.
The added precision offered by JWST means researchers can look for stars and planets that are much smaller. Typically, telescopes look for exoplanets larger than Jupiter, about 11 times wider than Earth.
Information is also collected very quickly, taking only two passes (or passes in front of its star) for JWST to identify LHS 475 b and some of its characteristics. Further reading should tell us more about what we are dealing with here.
We also see that JWST is creating absolutely stunning images from deep space thanks to the sensitivity of its onboard instruments, and this has only been going on for a little over a year. That’s not all.
“These first observations of a rocky planet the size of Earth open the door to many future possibilities for studying the atmosphere of a rocky planet with Webb,” said Mark Clampin, director of the Astrophysics Division. at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.
“Webb is bringing us closer to a new understanding of terrestrial worlds beyond our solar system, and the mission is just getting started.”
Contact us: [email protected]