Current Affairs 2023
The James Webb Space Telescope has made its first exoplanet discovery, a rocky world similar to Earth located 41 light-years away. Using its Near-Infrared Spectrograph, the telescope easily found the exoplanet and plans to continue studying its atmosphere. The discovery opens up possibilities for studying rocky planet atmospheres and brings us closer to understanding Earth-like worlds outside our solar system.
Jan 13, 2023
2 min read
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has made a major discovery in the new year, identifying its first exoplanet, LHS 475 b. This exoplanet is almost the exact same size as Earth, with 99% of its diameter, and is also a rocky world. The proximity of LHS 475 b, located just 41 light-years away in the constellation Octans, is also exciting as it allows for further study and understanding of Earth-like planets in our celestial neighborhood.
The JWST's Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) was able to detect the exoplanet with ease, after only two transit observations. The planet completes an orbit around its red dwarf star in just two days, unlike Earth's 365 days. Despite the close proximity to its host star, the exoplanet may still have an atmosphere due to the red dwarf being half as hot as our sun.
The JWST is the only telescope capable of characterizing the atmospheres of Earth-sized exoplanets, however, it will require further time and observations to make definitive conclusions about LHS 475 b's atmosphere. The telescope has confirmed that the exoplanet is a few hundred degrees warmer than Earth, leading to speculation that it may have a similar atmosphere to Venus, which is covered in thick clouds of carbon dioxide.
The discovery made by the JWST opens the door to many future possibilities for studying rocky planet atmospheres and brings us closer to understanding Earth-like worlds outside our solar system. As the study lead, Jacob Lustig-Yaeger, states, "This is only the first of many discoveries that it (JWST) will make. With this telescope, rocky exoplanets are the new frontier." Image: NASA/ESA
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