A number of astronomers have discovered new details about a distant planet, in an important achievement that would lead to a fundamental shift in the search for alien life.
In the new research, scientists have identified the characteristics of the atmosphere of a planet located outside our solar system, and this came in a large and unprecedented degree of detail, as they say, explaining that a version of the new research may one day allow us to monitor life in worlds other than Earth.
The researchers gathered the new information using NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).
This section contains related articles, placed in the (Related Nodes field)
In fact, since its launch last year, scientists hope to take advantage of the telescope to study in detail about the atmospheres of other planets, and to provide us with a better understanding of the conditions that characterize them.
The researchers say they have gathered observational data of a whole new qualitative level about another planet known as WASP-39b, and have found completely new information about the chemistry of its atmosphere, the clouds that cover it, and data about its chemical composition that would tell us how it formed. planet.
According to the researchers, it constitutes a “turning point” in this field, and the beginning of technologies that allow them to find life in alien worlds.
Five new papers published in the journal Nature report on the findings, showing the full power of the James Webb Space Telescope and hinting at what information it could uncover in the future.
NASA’s “James Webb Space Telescope” has already transformed our understanding of the universe, as it captured amazing images of galaxies and stars overflowing with unprecedented detail, but the task entrusted to it did not end here, but there is a lot of work to be done using this telescope that it uses. scientists to examine other cosmic bodies, from the planets in our solar system to the most distant galaxies in the universe.
The new research was one of those projects and allowed scientists to focus on the planet “WASP-39b”. The latter is believed to be a thin copy of the planet Saturn, which is about 700 light years away from us.
Scientists have known about the existence of this planet for more than 10 years, and it is interesting that it embraces, as it is believed, large amounts of water, carbon dioxide and other chemicals in its atmosphere, which may prove useful in the search for alien life, but many details about its cover Atmosphere is still vague.
In order to achieve a better understanding of the atmosphere, scientists use the “James Webb Space Telescope” to observe the planet as it passes in front of its star four times in July 2022, and during this observation process they are able to monitor the colors in the atmosphere, which enables them to discern some Conclusions about what this layer contains.
Thus, scientists formulated a detailed picture of the planet and its atmosphere, and it can be used to verify the details that the “James Webb Space Telescope” can monitor, but also to understand the planet better.
The new study indicates that the atmosphere contains a previously mysterious element, sulfur dioxide, the first time this element has been found on another planet.
Thus, the proportions of different chemicals in the atmosphere allow us to know how this planet was formed, for example, the fact that there are high levels of oxygen that exceed levels of carbon by far, indicating that the planet was born at a great distance from its star compared to its location now.
The study also indicates that the planet is covered with patches of clouds in the form of groups, and not as one large cover covering the planet, and these clouds do not consist of water, unlike the case on Earth, but rather of various materials, including sulfides and silicates.
In the future, subsequent space telescopes that come after the “James Webb Space Telescope” may find forms of space life in the same way, and by collecting information about the atmospheres of other worlds, we will one day infer the existence of living organisms on a planet.
So the new findings also serve as a beta test for the kind of techniques we might eventually use to find aliens, as well as help provide information about other worlds themselves.