The James Webb Space Telescope’s view of the atmosphere of an exoplanet

The James Webb Space Telescope's view of the atmosphere of an exoplanet

Astronomers announced this week that they have found evidence of chemical reactions in the atmosphere of an exoplanet 700 light-years from Earth. researchers Looking at the atmosphere of an exoplanet with the James Webb Space Telescope They will paint a detailed chemical portrait of the burning gases swirling around the exoplanet WASP-39b.

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Reasons for the James Webb Space Telescope to look at the atmosphere of an exoplanet

Like a “hot Saturn,” the planet is very close to its host star, meaning it can reach temperatures of up to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit, or 900 degrees Celsius. On the other hand, it is very puffy and about a quarter of Jupiter’s mass but 1.3 times its size.

Initial data on the planet WASP-39b was shared this summer; Exactly when JWST detected carbon dioxide in its atmosphere. The importance of the story is that this is the first time that this gas has been detected in a planet outside our solar system.

Now, a more detailed picture of its atmosphere is available in a series of recently published papers on arXiv, three of which have been accepted for publication in the highly regarded journal Nature, and two of which are under review. These surveys are being conducted as part of a program designed to rapidly disseminate observations, and the data produced by this valuable telescope will help scientists around the world.

The James Webb Space Telescope's view of the atmosphere of an exoplanet

The researchers used three Webb Space Telescope instruments, NIRSpec, NIRCam, and NIRISS, to collect spectroscopic information about the planet’s atmosphere.

Natalie Batala of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said in a statement.

“We observed the exoplanet with multiple instruments that together cover a wide range of the infrared spectrum and a set of chemical fingerprints inaccessible to us. “Data like these could change our understanding of the playing field (here, the exoplanet we’re talking about).”

In the past decade, astronomers have discovered a large number of exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system. With more than 5,000 exoplanets confirmed to date, the biggest challenge we face right now is a deep understanding of these planets. More than just knowing the size or mass of an exoplanet, advanced research is now focused on learning about their atmospheres. And instruments like the James Webb Space Telescope make it possible to see these distant spaces in greater detail than ever before.

The James Webb Space Telescope instruments are used to perform a technique called transmission spectroscopy. They observe the light coming from the host star as it passes through the planet’s atmosphere. This light is split into different wavelengths so researchers can see which wavelengths are absorbed. Different chemicals absorb different wavelengths of light, allowing researchers to determine the composition of the planet’s atmosphere.

The research showed that sodium, potassium, carbon monoxide and water vapor are present in the atmosphere of this exoplanet, which confirms previous findings that WASP-39b has water vapor in its atmosphere. But the interesting point of the story is that in addition to the mentioned elements, he also found sulfur dioxide, which is the first time that this molecule was detected in the atmosphere of an exoplanet.

Finding these molecules points to a process similar to that found in Earth’s ozone layer, as sulfur dioxide is formed from chemical reactions in the upper atmosphere caused by light from the host star.

Another researcher named Shang Min Tsai from Oxford University said:

“This is the first time we’ve seen concrete evidence of photochemistry (chemical reactions initiated by high-energy starlight) in exoplanets. I see this as a very promising prospect for advancing our understanding of exoplanet atmospheres [این مأموریت] I know.”

Given that the exoplanet WASP-39 b is very close to its host star (about one-eighth the distance between Mercury and the Sun), studying it can reveal how stellar radiation interacts with the planetary atmosphere. While the radiation we’re talking about can be harmful to life on Earth (Earth is shielded from the sun’s radiation by its magnetosphere, without which the planet would be uninhabitable). It can also play an important role in the chemical reactions that create the molecules needed to maintain a habitable atmosphere.

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