The atmosphere of an exoplanet was most thoroughly analyzed by JWST to date.




JWST has proven that it is capable of comprehensively examining the atmospheres of exoplanets. The first definitive finding of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of WASP-39b was made public by astronomers back in August. More observations have also shown the presence of sulfur dioxide, the first time it has been detected on an exoplanet, and proof that the chemical is produced by starlight, another first. Additionally, they learned more about the exoplanet's cloud layer and hints about its formation.


You'd be right to assume that an exoplanet 700 light-years away would find it to be a lot. Scientists have now achieved the best understanding of an atmosphere for a planet outside the Solar System. The observations, which were made as part of the "Transiting Exoplanet Community Early Release Science Program," have produced some truly amazing results.


In terms of mass, WSP-39b is similar to Saturn but orbits much more closely to its star, which is itself a little smaller than the Sun. It is only an eighth of Mercury's distance from the Sun and completes an orbit around its star in four days.


When the planet passes in front of the star due to its proximity, astronomers can examine its atmosphere. The atmosphere filters some of the starlight, and JWST can use this filtered light to determine the chemical makeup of the air on this faraway planet.


The JWST will conduct even more amazing scientific research, as evidenced by these early observations. In a statement, Laura Kreidberg, director of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and a participant in the Transiting Exoplanet Community Early Release Science Program, said, "We put the telescope through its paces to test the performance, and it was nearly flawless - even better than we hoped.


According to Natalia Batalha, the program coordinator from the University of California, Santa Cruz, "data like these are a game changer."


The observations of carbon dioxide in August indicated the presence of an unidentified feature. Astronomers can identify the substance as sulfur dioxide thanks to the new data. Starlight can break up water molecules, which are common in WASP-39b's atmosphere, and hydrogen atoms can interact with hydrogen sulfide. Due to this, sulfur dioxide and sulfur oxide are first produced. It has been confirmed for the first time on an exoplanet that the entire process is a photochemical reaction.


Researchers have been able to infer some information about the planet's past thanks to the chemical makeup of the atmosphere on this world. The research team concludes that the planet was formed by the accretion of smaller bodies by examining the relative ratios of sulfur to hydrogen, potassium to oxygen, and carbon to oxygen.


The team also thinks that because the atmosphere contains much more oxygen than carbon, it formed much farther from the star and then migrated inward. The team can also detect sulfide and silicate clouds in the atmosphere, but they are not evenly distributed throughout the atmosphere like a cloud cover would be.


A number of papers, some of which have been accepted for publication in Nature and others of which are still being reviewed, report the astounding findings.

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