WEBB’S FIRST EXOPLANET DISCOVERY CONFIRMED
The James Webb telescope has been used to confirm its first ever Exoplanet. The James Webb telescope is currently the largest and most powerful telescope built to date and is being utilized for a number of ambitious space exploration projects. The telescope which is as large as a three-story building and as wide as a tennis court was built to fold so that it could actually fit into the rocket ship that would launch it into space. The telescope uses infrared radiation light to see things that humans cannot and uses its infrared cameras to see through dust clouds caused by planets and stars that we would otherwise be unable to see through. With this line of sight, it is able to capture images of our universe that humans have never been exposed to before. Space telescopes use a number of special mirrors to “collect and focus light from distant stars” in order to be able to “see.” Due to the fact that the Webb telescope is already so large, in order to reduce its weight and make it easier to launch into space, scientists opted for 18 smaller mirrors that fit together like puzzle pieces and can ‘fold’ when the telescope folds. The James Webb’s telescope mirrors are also gold so that they can help reflect more infrared light.
One of the telescopes main objectives is to study exoplanets and looks for signs of life in other solar systems. Earlier this year, researchers Kevin Stevenson and Jacob Lustig-Yaeger, both of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and their respective research team was able to use the telescope to confirm the existence of exoplanet LHS 475 b. The exoplanet exploration came after a targeting exercise from TESS, which is NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, that picked up the clues around the planet’s existence. Webb’s telescope found the exoplanet easily using its Near-Infrared Spectrograph. “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 says Mark Clampin, who is the Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
The exoplanet is almost identical in size to Earth, however it is unknown as to whether or not it’s atmosphere is similar enough in composition to sustain any kind of life form on it. That being said, using the super sensitive molecule detection of Webb’s telescope, the team has determined that it doesn’t have a thick methane-dominated atmosphere, which would make it similar to Saturn’s moon – Titan. Temperature-wise the team of researchers have determined that the planet is significantly hotter than Earth, by almost a couple hundred degrees or so. According to Lustig-Yaeger, they are only “at the forefront of studying small, rocky exoplanets.” They “have barely begun scratching the surface of what their atmospheres might be like.”