July 12, 2024

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The Webb telescope reveals the harmful atmosphere of a planet 700 light-years away

An artist's impression of the surface of WASP-39b.

Astrophysicists on Earth no strangers to WASP-39b, an exoplanet orbiting a star 700 light-years from Earth, though they haven’t actually seen it directly. Now, the Webb Space Telescope has provided new insight into this distant world: Its observations have revealed a list of recipes for the planet’s toxic atmosphere.

WASP-39b is a gas giant about the mass of Saturn and the size of Jupiter, but it orbits its star at about the same distance as Mercury from the Sun, which makes the outer planet very hot. It was an exoplanet Discovered in 2011; Earlier this year, Webb telescope observations open Carbon dioxide lurks in its atmosphere.

More molecules and chemical compounds have now been identified, including evidence of water, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, sodium and potassium. The results are under review for publication and Available now On the arXiv prepress server.

Shang-Min Cai, a researcher at the University of Oxford, lead author of the paper explaining the presence of sulfur dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere, said in a statement. Launch of the European Space Agency. “I see this as a really promising outlook for advancing our understanding of the outer atmospheres of exoplanets [this mission]. “

Smelling the chemicals floating in the atmosphere of a faraway world is no small feat. The closest confirmed exoplanet is 24.9 trillion miles away. However, Webb was able to detect such ultrafine particles in WASP-39b.

Four drawings show the observed spectra.

Webb observed the planet by waiting for it to cross in front of its host star; When that happened, the star’s light illuminated the planet from behind. Webb captured infrared wavelengths of this light, and scientists can infer which chemicals are present in the atmosphere based on the wavelengths of light they absorb.

Webb’s capabilities have broader implications for understanding the diversity of exoplanets in our galaxy, with an emphasis on their potential habitability. With its intense heat and gaseous composition, WASP-39b is certainly not hospitable to any life we ​​know of – but it does showcase the kind of molecular analysis Webb could apply to distant worlds.

“I look forward to seeing what we find in the atmospheres of small terrestrial planets,” said Mercedes Lopez-Morales, an astronomer at the Center for Astrophysics. Harvard and Smithsonian and co-author of recent work, in ESA edition.

Suggested data for researchers That chemicals in the planet’s atmosphere may be disintegrating into clouds, rather than being evenly distributed in the atmosphere. Based on the relative abundance of the chemicals in the atmosphere, the researchers believe that WASP-39b arose from planetesimals clumping together over time.

While we don’t know where Webb will turn to IR Next stare, we know that, At some point, more Exoplanets will be on the agenda. Webb has already studied the atmospheres of rocky planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system, and may return to the system in time. You can keep up with Webb’s latest goals over here.

More: Webb telescope highlights hazy galaxy once

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