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Earth-like planet Webb found – but does it have an atmosphere?

Earth-like planet Webb found – but does it have an atmosphere?

Barely smaller than Earth, the rocky planet has become the first exoplanet confirmed by the James Webb telescope. The planet is 41 light years away and opens the door to future studies of rocky planets.

The James Webb Telescope (Webb) has confirmed the first exoplanet – a planet orbiting a star other than the Sun. The planet LHS 475 b is located 41 light-years away and orbits the red dwarf LHS 475 with an orbital period of two days.

The diameter of the outer planet is 99% of that of the Earth. With the help of the Nirspec instrument, the researchers tried, among other things, to find out if the planet has an atmosphere. Of all the telescopes in use today, only Webb can make atmospheric measurements on Earth-sized planets.

Early on August 31, 2022, Webb was pointed toward LHS 475 b, but the planet’s existence has only now been confirmed. The researchers chose their target based on data from the telescope he-goat that hinted at a possible exoplanet in the observed star system. Tess aims to map potential exoplanets around 200,000 stars.

The research team that discovered the planet is led by Kevin Stephenson and Jacob Lustig-Yeger in the Department of Applied Physics at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, USA.

There is no doubt that the planet exists. Webb’s amazing data confirms this. The fact that it’s a small, rocky planet is impressive for a telescope, says Jacob Lustig-Yaeger. press release.

The light curve collected by Webb shows how the planet blocks starlight as it passes between us and the star. Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, L. Hustak (STScI); Science: K. Stevenson, J. Lustig-Yaeger, E.May (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory), G. Fu (Johns Hopkins University), S. Moran (University of Arizona)

Not sure about the planet’s atmosphere

No sign of specific atoms or molecules appeared in Nierspec’s combined transmission spectrum, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the planet is completely devoid of an atmosphere.

– There are some Earth-like atmospheres we can rule out. The planet may have a dense, methane-dominated atmosphere, similar to that of Saturn’s moon Titan, Jacob Lustig-Yeger says in the news release.

Webb was also able to reveal that the planet is a few hundred degrees warmer than Earth. If it had an atmosphere, scientists believe it could be composed, for example, of carbon dioxide like Venus.

Previously, the James Webb telescope Atmospheric measurements From the exoplanet Wasp-39b. However, this planet was already known and was discovered in 2011 during the Wasp Project.

Transmission measurements from the rocky planet show no obvious signs of the atmosphere. Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, L. Hustak (STScI); Science: K. Stevenson, J. Lustig-Yaeger, E.May (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory), G. Fu (Johns Hopkins University), S. Moran (University of Arizona)

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