Rare galaxies dazzling in new Webb telescope images

Webb telescope captures carbon dioxide on exoplanet

The exoplanet WASP-39b, a hot gas giant orbiting a sun-like star 700 light-years from Earth, is part of a larger Webb survey that includes two other transits, according to NASA planet. In a press release, the agency noted that understanding the atmospheric makeup of planets like WASP-39b is critical to understanding how they originated and evolved.

“Carbon dioxide molecules are sensitive tracers of the planet formation story,” Mike Lane, an associate professor in Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, said in a press release. Line is a member of the JWST Transiting Exoplanet Community Early Release Science team that conducted the investigation.

The team made carbon dioxide observations using the telescope’s near-infrared spectrometer, one of Webb’s four science instruments, to look at WASP-39b’s atmosphere. Their research is part of the Early Release Science Initiative, which aims to make data from the telescope available to the exoplanet research community as quickly as possible to guide further scientific research and discovery.

This latest discovery has been accepted for publication in the journal Nature.

“By measuring this carbon dioxide signature, we can determine how much solid versus how much gas was used to form the gas giant,” Line added. “Over the next decade, JWST will perform this measurement on a variety of planets, providing insight into the details of how planets form and the uniqueness of our own solar system.”

A new era in exoplanet research

The highly sensitive Webb telescope is launched on Christmas Day 2021 to its current orbit 1.5 million kilometers (nearly 932,000 miles) above Earth. By looking at the universe using longer wavelengths of light than other space telescopes use, Webb can look more closely at the beginning of time, look for unobserved structures in the first galaxies, and observe the star and planetary systems that are currently forming inside the dust cloud.

In the captured spectrum of the planet’s atmosphere, the researchers saw a small hill between 4.1 and 4.6 microns — a “clear carbon dioxide signal,” says team leader, UC Santa Astronomy and Astrophysics Professor Natalie Batalha said. Cruz, in the release. (A micrometer is a unit of length equal to one millionth of a meter.)

“Depending on the composition, thickness and cloudiness of the atmosphere, it absorbs some colors of light more than others — making the Earth look bigger.” Science. “We can analyze these tiny differences in planet size to reveal the chemical composition of the atmosphere.”

Obtaining this part of the spectrum — made possible by the Webb telescope — is critical for measuring the abundance of gases like methane and water, which are thought to be present in many exoplanets, as well as carbon dioxide, according to NASA . Because individual gases absorb different color combinations, researchers can examine “small differences in the brightness of transmitted light over a range of wavelengths to determine what the atmosphere is made of,” according to NASA.

Previously, NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer telescopes found water vapor, sodium and potassium in Earth’s atmosphere. “Previous observations of the planet with Hubble and Spitzer gave us tantalizing hints that carbon dioxide might be present,” Batalha said. “The data from JWST shows a clear CO2 signature that stands out, almost yelling at us.”

Scientists are asking the public to name 20 exoplanet systems observed by the Webb telescope.Here's how to submit your idea

“As soon as the data appeared on my screen, the giant carbon dioxide signature grabbed me,” Zafar Rustamkulov, a graduate student in Johns Hopkins’ Morton K. Blaustein Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said in a news release. “This is a special moment that crosses an important threshold in exoplanet science,” he added.

Discovered in 2011, WASP-39b has about the same mass as Saturn, about a quarter the size of Jupiter, and 1.3 times the diameter of Jupiter. Because the exoplanet orbits so close to its star, it completes one lap in a little over four Earth days.

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