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James Webb Space Telescope Continues to Amaze Us!

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) had been developed over 20 years by many scientists from 15 different countries. It was launched to space on December, 25, 2021. This space telescope is very special because it is the largest optical telescope in space, so it is equipped with high-resolution and high-sensitivity instruments. Therefore, it can view objects that are too distant or faint for the Hubble Space Telescope. JWST discovered and observed many things since 2022. Here are some of its newest and most interesting discoveries and observations.

The First Exoplanet Discovery by JWST

This exoplanet is named LHS 475 b and it is almost the same size as the Earth. It is only 41 light-years away. JWST’s near infrared spectrograph (NIRSpec) cameras captured the planet easily. However, we still don’t know if this planet has an atmosphere or not.

Dusty Disk That Has Never Been Seen Before

JWST has imaged the inner workings of a dusty disk surrounding a nearby red dwarf star for the first time. This star system is 32 light-years away from us and it is considered 23 million years old. Since the forming of a planet takes less than 10 million years we can say that planet formation has ended in this star system. While detecting the disk is significant, the research team’s ultimate goal is to search for giant planets in wide orbits, similar to Jupiter, Saturn, or the ice giants of our solar system.

Another Mini-Neptune

James Webb Telescope has observed another exoplanet called GJ 1214 b. It is informed that the planet is too hot to contain liquid-water oceans but steam could be a major part of its atmosphere. “The planet is totally blanketed by some sort of haze or cloud layer, the atmosphere just remained totally hidden from us until this observation.” said Eliza Kempton, a researcher at the University of Maryland and lead author of a new paper, published in Nature, on the planet.

How A Star Looks Just Before A Supernova

JWST captured a very rare moment: a huge Wolf Rayet star before a supernova. This star, also known as WR 124, is 15000 light-years away and it is 30 times bigger than the Sun. Only some of the massive stars go through a brief Wolf-Rayet phase before going supernova, making Webb’s detailed observations of this rare phase valuable to astronomers.

Where Does This Water Vapor Come From?

Red dwarf stars are very common in our universe. Since these stars are cool, the planets around them should be very close to the star to contain liquid water. But the GJ 486 b is too close to its star, it has a surface temperature of 430 degrees Celsius, so it can’t contain liquid water. The observations of JWST show that there is water vapor. If the water is associated with the planet it means it has an atmosphere. Water vapor has been seen on gaseous exoplanets before, but no atmosphere has been found around a rocky exoplanet until now. But there is a possibility that water vapor may be coming from the star itself and not from the planet. “We see a signal, and it’s almost certainly due to water. But we can't tell yet if that water is part of the planet's atmosphere, meaning the planet has an atmosphere, or if we’re just seeing a water signature coming from the star,” said Sarah Moran from the University of Arizona in Tucson, lead author of the study. “Water vapor in an atmosphere on a hot rocky planet would represent a major breakthrough for exoplanet science. But we must be careful and make sure that the star is not the culprit,” added Kevin Stevenson from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, principal investigator on the program.

If you are interested in JWST’s observations and discoveries, you can find more information by clicking this link (It is the source of this article.):

All the images are taken from NASA’s website.

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