October 4, 2022

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From the Webb Telescope testing carbon dioxide on an alien planet

There is now definitive evidence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of an exoplanet: it was discovered by the new James Webb space telescope of NASA, ESA and Canada (CSA), pointing to a super view of the gas giant planet Wasp-39b, which orbits around a sun-like star 700 light-years away from us. The result provides important information about the formation and composition of the planet, and is indicative of Webb’s ability to detect and measure carbon dioxide.

Natalie Batalha of the University of California, Santa Cruz, lead researcher who used the Webb Telescope to study the atmospheres of exoplanets by observing the way the light of the original star is filtered when it passes in front of it.

“It is amazing to see the European Space Agency’s NIRSpec instrument producing such amazing data so early in the mission, when we know we can still improve the quality of the data as we go forward,” adds Sarah Kendro of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

Carbon dioxide particles can tell us a lot about a planet’s history: By measuring them, explains Mike Lane of Arizona State University, “we can determine how much solid or gaseous matter was used to make the planet. Over the next decade, Webb will make that measurement.” to a variety of planets, providing detailed information on how they formed and the uniqueness of our solar system.”

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