James Webb telescope is so powerful, it detected water on a distant exoplanet

James Webb telescope is so powerful, it detected water on a distant exoplanet

NASA unveiled the first full-color images for its James Webb space telescope this week, and the results were absolutely astounding. It’s easy for us to become distracted by the amazing images James Webb can capture. However, this telescope has a much greater power than we realize. The telescope detects water on distant exoplanets.

James Webb detected water on a distant exoplanet

The exoplanet in question is Wasp-96 b, one of the five targets that the telescope focused on first. Where James Webb photographed the Carina Nebula and other targets, though, it analyzed Wasp-96 b. It did this quite well. In fact, the analysis of Wasp-96 b was so thorough that scientists discovered water on the exoplanet.

NASA used the Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) to dive deep into the atmosphere make-up of the exoplanet. To do this, the scientists focused on completing what they call a transmission spectrum. To do this, the scientists compared starlight filtered through the planet’s atmosphere as it moves across the star, to the unfiltered starlight detected when the planet is next to a star.

NASA claims that every 141 point it has created on its graph (represented in the above image) indicates the wavelength of light that was blocked by the planet’s atmosphere and absorbed into the atmosphere. NASA can use this data to learn more about an exoplanet’s composition. This includes the discovery of water on the exoplanet.

Pushing science forward

The discovery of water in an exoplanet’s atmosphere with Webb is just a small testament to what this space telescope is capable of. Hubble was the first to detect water on an exoplanet in 2013.. However, with Webb’s advancements, the telescope is even more capable of detecting water clearly. Webb will continue to explore exoplanets and it’s impossible to predict what discoveries scientists will make.

We already know that NASA has a full docket of scientific missions for Webb to complete over the coming years. One of these missions will be to look deeper into our galaxy’s black hole. We’ve already captured an image of the Milky Way’s black hole. But, if we could learn more about it, and other black holes, we could better understand these intriguing galactic entities.

With Webb’s ability to detect water on exoplanets, there is a greater chance that we will find an Earth-like planet.

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