November 27, 2022

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Partially Cloudy Gas Giant Planet Shows James Webb Space Telescope: NPR

Partially Cloudy Gas Giant Planet Shows James Webb Space Telescope: NPR

This illustration shows what the gas giant planet WASP-39 b might look like as it orbits its host star.

NASA, European Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency, Joseph Olmsted (STScI)


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NASA, European Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency, Joseph Olmsted (STScI)

This illustration shows what the gas giant planet WASP-39 b might look like as it orbits its host star.

NASA, European Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency, Joseph Olmsted (STScI)

The James Webb Space Telescope has identified a rich mix of gases swirling in the sky of a hot, Jupiter-like world orbiting a star about 700 light-years from Earth.

In addition to carbon dioxide, water and other molecules are described in a series of new scientific papers published Online, researchers say the telescope has detected signs of sulfur dioxide.

must be produced Through a series of chemical reactions in the planet’s atmosphere, it is triggered by light from a sun-like star around which this gas giant planet closely orbits, orbiting about once every four days.

“This is very exciting,” he says. Jacob Beanan astronomer at the University of Chicago.

He notes that light-initiated interactions are an important part of planetary atmospheres. In Earth’s atmosphere, for example, sunlight produces ozone, which prevents harmful radiation from reaching the planet’s surface. But this kind of chemistry had never been clearly observed in the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system before.

Understanding how it works on other worlds, Bean says, “will be crucial to understanding life on other planets.”

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Scientists have discovered thousands of planets orbiting distant stars, almost indirectly, by staring at the stars with telescopes to see how they are affected by the presence of orbiting planets. In most cases, researchers know nothing about the planets other than the approximate size of the two worlds and their distance from the star.

Sometimes, however, they have been able to obtain clues about planetary atmospheres, by analyzing the starlight that streams through it. That’s because different molecules absorb different wavelengths of light.

The Hubble Space Telescope, for example, discovered A Surprise The amount of water vapor in the atmosphere of this particular planet, called WASP-39 b.

So when NASA’s new flagship telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, launched in December, scientists were anxious to look at the planet to compare the view offered by their new instrument to what had previously been seen with Hubble.

“The Hubble observations were confirmed, but we’ve gone much deeper into understanding this planet by detecting all these different molecules and being able to describe their abundances more precisely, and then seeing things we didn’t really expect,” says Voll.

“For example, sulfur dioxide, this is something we haven’t had a chance to see with Hubble,” Bean says. “But it was so easy and it kind of fell off those first James Webb notes.”

He adds that in addition to detecting a range of different particles in the atmosphere, astronomers have also seen signs that this planet has patchy and sparse cloud cover.

“It’s not completely cloudy,” says Bean. “It’s always great to learn something new about one of these types of planets that allows me to create a better brain, at least in my head.” picture What does the planet look like?

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