Saturday, January 28, 2023
Home Tech News James Webb Space Telescope spots first alien planet – and it’s similar...

James Webb Space Telescope spots first alien planet – and it’s similar to Earth

Nasa’s cutting-edge James Webb Space Telescope has discovered its first alien planet (Credit: Nasa)

If the human race is looking for a holiday home destination, perhaps we may consider LHS 475 b.

That’s the official classification of a newly-found exoplanet – the first to be spotted by Nasa’s state-of-the-art James Webb Space Telescope.

The planet is a rocky world, like Earth, and sits just 41 light years away. Which is an unimaginably huge distance – but still relatively close by astronomical terms.

Nasa’s astronomers say the planet has is 99 per cent of Earth’s diameter – and they’re working on identifying whether or not it has an atmosphere.

The only hitch in the plan for moving there is that it sits much closer to its red dwarf parent star and is, therefore, a few hundred degrees warmer than our blue marble. The experts say it completes an orbit in just two days.

Mark Clampin, Astrophysics Division director at Nasa Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement: ‘These first observational results from an Earth-size, rocky planet open the door to many future possibilities for studying rocky planet atmospheres with Webb.

‘Webb is bringing us closer and closer to a new understanding of Earth-like worlds outside our solar system, and the mission is only just getting started.’

Science/ 11624673 / James Webb discovers new planet. Researchers confirmed an exoplanet, a planet that orbits another star, using NASA?s James Webb Space Telescope for the first time. Formally classified as LHS 475 b, the planet is almost exactly the same size as our own, clocking in at 99% of Earth?s diameter. The research team is led by Kevin Stevenson and Jacob Lustig-Yaeger, both of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. The team chose to observe this target with Webb after carefully reviewing targets of interest from NASA?s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which hinted at the planet?s existence. Webb?s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) captured the planet easily and clearly with only two transit observations. ?There is no question that the planet is there. Webb?s pristine data validate it,? said Lustig-Yaeger. ?The fact that it is also a small, rocky planet is impressive for the observatory,? Stevenson added. ?These first observational results from an Earth-size, rocky planet open the door to many future possibilities for studying rocky planet atmospheres with Webb,? agreed Mark Clampin, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. ?Webb is bringing us closer and closer to a new understanding of Earth-like worlds outside our solar system, and the mission is only just getting started.?

An artist’s impression of the rocky exoplanet identified by the James Webb Space Telescope (Credit: Nasa)

The James Webb Space Telescope was launched on Christmas Day in 2021 and will serve as the replacement for the long-running Hubble Space Telescope.

And the advanced tech on board the JWST means astronomers will – for the first time – be able to investigate atmospheric conditions of exoplanets.

Nasa’s research team will attempt to assess what’s in the planet’s atmosphere by analyzing its transmission spectrum.

The white dots are readings while the lines represent different types of atmosphere, purple is C02, green is methane and yellow is no atmosphere (Credit: Nasa)

The white dots are readings while the lines represent different types of atmosphere, purple is C02, green is methane and yellow is no atmosphere (Credit: Nasa)

Although the team can’t conclude what is present, they can definitely say what is not present.

‘There are some terrestrial-type atmospheres that we can rule out,’ explained Jacob Lustig-Yaeger from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

‘It can’t have a thick methane-dominated atmosphere, similar to that of Saturn’s moon Titan.’

The team also notes that while it’s possible the planet has no atmosphere, there are some atmospheric compositions that have not been ruled out, such as a pure carbon dioxide atmosphere.

The James Webb Space Telescope is packed up for shipment to its launch site in Kourou, French Guiana in an undated photograph at Northrop Grumman's Space Park in Redondo Beach, California. NASA/Chris Gunn/Handout via REUTERS MANDATORY CREDIT. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY

The James Webb Space Telescope before it was launched in 2021 (Credit: Reuters)

‘Counterintuitively, a 100% carbon dioxide atmosphere is so much more compact that it becomes very challenging to detect,’ said Lustig-Yaeger. Even more precise measurements are required for the team to distinguish a pure carbon dioxide atmosphere from no atmosphere at all.

The researchers are scheduled to obtain additional spectra with upcoming observations this summer.

‘We’re at the forefront of studying small, rocky exoplanets,’ Lustig-Yaeger said. ‘We have barely begun scratching the surface of what their atmospheres might be like.

‘And it is only the first of many discoveries that it will make, he added.

‘With this telescope, rocky exoplanets are the new frontier.’


MORE : Nasa’s Hubble telescope snaps star cluster 50,000 light-years from Earth


MORE : Nasa boss: China could ‘claim the moon as its territory’ and ban the USA from landing there

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Hospital couldn’t legally hold VPD officer who died by suicide, inquest hears

WARNING: This story contains disrobing details that may not be suitable for all readers. Discretion is advised.  The hospital psychiatrist who released a Vancouver police...

B.C. mom calls for de-escalation training after autistic son handcuffed in hospital

A B.C. mother is calling for better de-escalation training for law enforcement after her 12-year-old son, who has autism, was handcuffed at BC Children’s...

Owen Sound Attack score big in second period in 6-3 win over Guelph Storm

The Guelph Storm had no chance against a bear from Owen Sound. The visiting Attack used a strong second period to beat Guelph 6-3 Friday...

Cyber attacks in space: How safe are our satellites?

As space becomes the latest frontier for human dominance, satellites are becoming ever-important for life on Earth to function. There are currently 10,352 satellites orbiting...