NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has made the first confirmation of an exoplanet. An exoplanet is a planet orbiting a star outside our solar system.
The US space agency says the exoplanet is roughly the same size as Earth.
Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland checked the new data collected by Webb to ensure the data was correct.
Previous observations by another NASA telescope provided some evidence of an exoplanet. But Webb’s confirmation made the discovery official.
The other space telescope is called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS. TESS was launched in 2018 with the goal of discovering additional planets outside our solar system.
The exoplanet is named LHS 475 b. It is too close to Earth for an exoplanet, the researchers said. It is located about 41 light-years away in the constellation Octane. A light year is the distance that light travels in one year.
It is difficult for telescopes to identify exoplanets. One reason is that the bright light from the stars it orbits can hide it. The research process involves observing droplets in the plane of starlight. These drops can be caused by the passage of a planet or a transit in front of a star.
The researchers said Webb was able to confirm the existence of the exoplanet using the transit observation method. Confirmation came quickly, they said, after only two transit events.
NASA said the Webb telescope was developed to be able to provide a high level of detail in its observations. It is equipped with the latest technology to monitor infrared waves. These waves are a type of electromagnetic energy that cannot be seen by the human eye. NASA says telescope instruments can find infrared waves through gas and dust to spot distant objects.
Jacob Lustig-Yaeger helped lead the search. He said in a statement that the telescope’s data made it easier to make a clear confirmation. “There is no doubt that the planet exists.”
This discovery was recently presented at a conference of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington.
Another team captain, Kevin Stephenson, added that he found confirmation “embarrassed“Because the exoplanet is small and rocky, that makes it more difficult to identify.
Of all of NASA’s operating telescopes, only Webb is equipped to collect information on exoplanet atmospheres. But in this case, the researchers said they don’t have enough data to confirm what type of atmosphere LHS 475 b has.
Scientists generally use computer models and telescope data to study the atmospheres of exoplanets. Erin May, another member of the research team, said the Webb telescope can easily identify a series of different particles. “But we can’t do anything yet Final conclusions about the planet’s atmosphere.
While the researchers said they can’t confirm what is in an exoplanet’s atmosphere, they are very confident about what is not. For example, LHS 475 b cannot have a thick atmosphere made mostly of methane, Lustig-Yaeger said.
The team even suggested that the exoplanet might not have an atmosphere at all. Some of the available data suggests that the exoplanet may have an atmosphere of pure carbon dioxide. But the researchers said they plan to collect more data in future observations to help them learn more about atmospheric conditions.
NASA Says It has so far confirmed the existence of more than 5,000 planets outside the solar system. But Lustig-Yaeger noted that the Webb telescope is better equipped to detect small, rocky exoplanets. This will likely lead to more exoplanet confirmations, he said.
Lustig-Yaeger added, “We’ve barely got started scratch the surface what their atmosphere might be like. “
I’m Brian Lane.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from NASA.
words in this story
embarrassed Make a good or noticeable impression
Final Clear and not likely to change
conclusion – n. An opinion is made after considering all the information about something
Scratch the surface – language. like. To deal with only a small part of a topic or problem
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