The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has set records since its debut on December 2021.
The instrument has now identified its first planet around a star apart from our own, and it looks a bit familiar, with an estimated diameter of about ninety nine percent of the Earth’s.
NASA observations of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) hinted how the planet was there, but today the high-res imagery supplied by the Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) aboard the JWST confirmed it.
Our world is, in spite of its size similarity, thought to be much hotter than our very own home world, orbiting a red dwarf star near enough to complete an orbit in just 2 days.
“There is no question that our planet earth is there,” says astronomer Jacob Lustig Yaeger, from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland. “Webb’s pristine data validated it.”
This recently discovered object sits forty one light-years away in the constellation Octans, and is given the designation LHS 475 b. It was discovered, like other exoplanets, by looking at the shadow it casts whenever it passes behind its star.
The JWST’s different in it can check out the transmission spectrum. The variety of light wavelengths filtered all over the world is able to reveal characteristics of its environment.
For the time being, we haven’t sufficient info to tell us what type of environment LHS 475 b has, in case it’s any. Up to now, astronomers are certain it lacks a heavy, methane-rich atmosphere, like the one which encircles Saturn’s moon Titan.
“The telescope is very sensitive as well as the information is very exact that we could have quickly detected a number of different particles, though we do not see a lot of yet,” says astrophysicist Ortiz Ceballos, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Massachusetts.
They can’t rule out a short atmosphere comprised of pure CO2.
Scientists making use of the JWST’s additional precision can now search for stars as well as planets which are a lot smaller compared to their closest counterparts. Telescopes are generally searching for exoplanets bigger compared to Jupiter, some 11 times larger compared to the planet earth.
The info is gathered quickly: It required only 2 transits (or passes prior to its star) for the JWST to determine LHS 475 b and several of its qualities. Additional readings ought to tell us more about what we are dealing with there.
And due to the sensitivity of its on board instruments, the JWST is currently generating some absolutely amazing imagery from deep space, and it has only been around for a little over a year. There is more to come.
“These first observational results from an Earth-size, rocky world opened the door to numerous future possibilities for studying rocky world atmospheres with Webb,” says Mark Clampin, the Astrophysics Division director at the NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.
“the Webb is bringing us closer as well as closer to a new knowledge of earth-like worlds outside our Solar System, as well as the mission is just starting,’ he said.
The findings were presented at a gathering of the American Astronomical Society on Wednesday, January 11, 2023.