Breakthrough with Webb Telescope

The James Webb Telescope made another breakthrough for deep space analysis. The telescope has received data from observing the atmosphere of a distant exoplanet. 

These readings show the atmospheric composition of the planet and the cloud structures. Previously, the Hubble Telescope was only able to get readings regarding the possible atmospheric temperature and general composition.

The planet observed by the Webb Telescope was WASP-39b (Bocaprins). Located in the constellation of Virgo, WASP-39b is a planet that is classified as a Hot Saturn due to the planet being about the size of Saturn but its orbit is much smaller than Mercury’s. This planet’s host star is about 700 light-years away from our Sun. 

In the data, it was found that the planet’s atmosphere contained sulfur dioxide (SO2). This molecule is produced from high energy reactions caused by the host star. 

This reaction is similar to how the ozone layer is created on Earth. This is the first sign of photochemistry, reactions caused by interstellar light, on an exoplanet. Understanding the data created from this can be used to model the conditions needed to possibly hold life. 

Also, the collected data can be used to track the effect of a host star’s radiation on a planet that is very close to it. Being in extreme proximity to its host star causes the exoplanet to be bombarded with constant radiation. We can now observe what kind of effect this can have on the atmosphere and the overall behavior of the planet.

Other kinds of composition in the atmosphere included potassium (K), sodium (Na) and water vapor (H2O). This data confirms the data found in previous studies, and further adds onto it by detecting extra traces of water in the atmosphere that were not detected with said previous methods. 

Carbon dioxide (CO2) was also detected and the amount of it was twice as much as the original data. The only components that were not in the data but were speculated to be there were methane (CH4) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S); if they were there, it would be at low levels in the atmosphere. 

The data collected is being used to figure out the ratio of components in the atmosphere, such as the potassium to oxygen and sodium to oxygen ratios. From this, it can be concluded how old the exoplanet is and where it formed. 

Speculation based on the WASP-39b atmosphere determined that it is a makeup of multiple planets that have collided into each other and made one big planet. 

In the future scientist hope to use the Webb Telescope to observe planets for signs of life. Some of these planets of interest include the TRAPPIST system, Kepler-186f, Kepler-22b and many more. 

With this discovery, it is making the future of finding an Earth-like planet more and more obtainable. This will help confirm and deny past observations and studies allowing scientists to have a better grasp and knowledge of the universe surrounding us.