According to a press statement issued by the European Space Agency, the Webb Space Telescope has discovered “unequivocal” evidence of carbon dioxide being in the atmosphere of a distant exoplanet. “It is the first clear, thorough, and irrefutable proof” of carbon dioxide being on a planet outside of our solar system, as stated by the European Space Agency (ESA).
Located around 700 light-years distant, the world is a gas giant that is comparable to Jupiter. It was given the name WASP-39 b and was found for the first time in 2011, but it wasn’t until recently that scientists were able to focus the amazing spectroscopic capabilities of the Webb Telescope on the planet.
While it is nearly as massive as Saturn, WASP-39 b is around 33% bigger in diameter than Jupiter. This suggests that it is not particularly dense. The close proximity of the planet to its host star causes it to reach temperatures of roughly 1,650 F (900 C).
Webb’s Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) allows astronomers to determine the elemental make-up of distant planets. The equipment is predicated on the fact that exoplanets circle their host stars in a manner that causes them to pass in front of the stars, a phenomenon known as a transit, allowing scientists to detect variations in the wavelengths of light blocked by the planet. Upon closer inspection, scientists discovered an incontestable CO2 signature on WASP-39 b.
“As soon as the data arrived on my screen, the enormous carbon dioxide characteristic grabbed me,” said Zafar Rustamkulov, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University and part of the transiting exoplanet team, in an ESA press release. “It was a momentous occasion, marking a significant milestone in the study of exoplanets.”
However, this is the first time that a team of scientists has been able to discover carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of an exoplanet with such a high level of certainty. Carbon dioxide makes up the bulk of the atmospheres of Venus and Mars.
According to Mike Line, a planetary scientist at Arizona State University and a member of the research team, carbon dioxide molecules are sensitive tracers of the tale of planet creation. This statement was made in the same announcement as the findings of the study. If we take the measurements of this carbon dioxide characteristic, we should be able to calculate the relative amounts of solid and gaseous material that went into the formation of this gas giant planet.
The finding is also a sign of what Webb can achieve in a specific area of the mid-infrared spectrum, and it suggests that the telescope will be able to detect abundances of significant gases like methane in the not too distant future.
WASP-96 b is a puffy gas giant located 1,150 light-years distant. On July 12, the Webb team employed a separate spectrograph onboard Webb to detect the existence of water in the atmosphere of WASP-96 b. Webb’s increasing list of achievements now includes not just a molecule but also a planet, according to the most recent finding of WASP-39 b.
The more exoplanets that are seen via the telescope, the more information we are going to gather about the many types of worlds that exist in our universe and how they come into being.