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James Webb Telescope detects carbon dioxide on an exoplanet for the first time

James Webb Telescope detects carbon dioxide on an exoplanet for the first time

space telescope James Webb Detecting for the first time the existence of carbon dioxide (CO2) In the atmosphere of an exoplanet – a planet outside our solar system. The Discovery It demonstrates the enormous capabilities of the equipment and arouses the interest of scientists.

a planet In question is a hot gas giant where life As we know it will be impossible. But the new finding suggests that these observations can also occur on rocky planets – with the ultimate goal of determining whether any of them have conditions favorable for life.

“For me, it is a door that opens for future studies of super-Earths, including Earth,” announced this Thursday (25th) astrophysicist Pierre-Olivier Legge, of the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). He is one of three co-authors of these works published in the scientific journal Nature.

Astrophysics professor Natalie Batalha, from the University of California, Santa Cruz, commented on Twitter: “My first thought: ‘Wow, we really have the potential to detect the atmospheres of Earth-sized planets.

extrasolar planet

Determining carbon dioxide will still allow us to learn more about the composition of this planet, called WASP-39b, which was discovered in 2011, NASA explained. Located 700 light-years away, the planet is about a quarter the mass of Jupiter and is very close to the sun.

This planet was chosen based on several criteria that facilitated its observation while scientists are still assessing the capabilities of the telescope, which revealed its first images less than two months ago.

WASP-39b periodically passes in front of its sun in a four-day orbit.

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James Webb

For his observations, James Webb uses the transit method, that is, when the planet passes in front of its star, the telescope picks up the tiny difference in brightness produced. Then it analyzes the “filtered” light through the planet’s atmosphere. Various particles present in the atmosphere leave specific marks that make it possible to determine their composition.

The Hubble and Spitzer telescopes have already detected water vapor, sodium and potassium in the atmosphere of this planet, but James Webb can move forward thanks to his enormous infrared sensitivity.

In a NASA statement, Zafar Rustamkulov of Johns Hopkins University commented on how he felt when the presence of carbon dioxide was clearly demonstrated: “It was a special moment, reaching a turning point in exoplanet science.”