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James Webb: Revealed in detail the atmosphere of an exoplanet like never before


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This is the hot planet WASP-39b at a distance of 700 light years from Earth

The James Webb Space Telescope achieved another first, as produced the most detailed “portrait” to date of an exoplanet’s atmosphererevealing data on its chemical composition and clouds in a way that has never been done before. It’s about him hot planet WASP-39b 700 light years from Earthwhich now becomes the planet we know the most about in our galaxy, after the eight planets in our solar system.

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The researchers from different countries made five separate pre-publications of their findings on arXiv, and regular publications in “Nature” will follow. “We had studied many planets before, but we had never seen data like this,” said Laura Kreidberg, director of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg.

WASP-39b, a gas giant located in the constellation Virgo, has about one-third the mass of Jupiter, takes only four days to complete one orbit around its star (that’s the length of its year), and because of its short exoplanet-star distance (only 7 million km or eight times less than the Sun-Mercury distance), the exoplanet in question develops temperatures of almost 900 degrees Celsius. This fact makes it inhospitable to life – at least as we know it on our own planet.

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James Webb, launched in December 2021, observed WASP-39b for 40 hours and, among other things, found carbon dioxide in its atmosphere (observed for the first time). He also detected in it water in the form of water vapor, carbon monoxide, sodium, potassium, etc., a chemical composition similar to that of Saturn.

Furthermore, the detection of sulfur dioxide indicates that photochemical reactions are taking place in the exoplanet’s atmosphere: as light from the parent star falls on it, it splits the water in the atmosphere into hydrogen and hydroxide, which in turn reacts with hydrogen sulfide to form produces sulfur dioxide. It is the first time that a photochemical reaction has been detected beyond our solar system, and it even resembles the one through which ozone is produced in the Earth’s atmosphere.

James Webb’s observations also show that WASP-39b lacks total cloud cover, which has also never been seen in an exoplanet before. The planet appears to be only 60% covered by dense clouds, which do not contain water vapor like on Earth but other chemical elements.

James Webb, a collaboration between the US (NASA), the European (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and is the most powerful and largest ever sent into space, has targeted about 70 exoplanets, including the seven rocky “terrestrial” planets of the nearby Trappist-1 system, so new data on the atmospheres of other exoplanets are expected.


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I am Terrance Carlson, author at News Bulletin 247. I mostly cover technology news and I have been working in this field for a long time. I have a lot of experience and I am highly knowledgeable in this area. I am a very reliable source of information and I always make sure to provide accurate news to my readers.

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