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Webb telescope captures first look at an exoplanet’s atmospheric breakdown

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(CNN) — The James Webb Space Telescope has captured detailed molecular and chemical images of the sky of a distant planet. another first score For the exoplanet science community.

WASP-39b, also known as Bocapurin, orbits a star about 700 light-years away. According to NASA, it is an exoplanet, a planet outside our solar system, about the same size as Saturn but much closer to its main star, with an estimated temperature of 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit (871 degrees Celsius) emitted from its gas. This “Hot Saturn” It was one of the first exoplanets examined by the Webb telescope. When it first started regular scientific activity.

New measurements provide a complete breakdown of Bocapurin’s atmosphere, including atoms, molecules and cloud formations that appear to be divided rather than the single homogeneous blanket scientists had previously expected. and even provide signatures of the photochemistry induced by the host star.

“We’ve observed exoplanets with multiple instruments,” said Natalie Batalha, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz. ) were able to provide a large amount of chemical fingerprints that were otherwise inaccessible.” Contribute to new research, help coordinate, With a NASA release. “Data like this is a game changer.”

overview of the atmosphere

New data provided the first indications of sulfur dioxide, a molecule produced from chemical reactions triggered by the planet’s host star and its high-energy light, in the atmosphere of an exoplanet. On Earth, the atmospheric protective ozone layer is created in a similar way from heat and sunlight in photochemical reactions.

Bocapurin’s proximity to its host star makes it an ideal target for studying such star-planet relationships. The planet is eight times closer to her star than Mercury is to our Sun.

Shang-Min Tsai, a researcher at the University of Oxford, UK, said in a NASA release: “I think this is a very promising prospect for improving our understanding of exoplanet atmospheres.”

Other compounds detected in Bocapurin’s atmosphere include sodium, potassium, and water vapor, confirming previous observations made by other space and ground-based telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope.

Having such a complete list of chemical ingredients in an exoplanet’s atmosphere provides insight into how this planet, and possibly other planets, formed. Bocapurin’s diverse chemical inventory suggests that multiple small celestial bodies called planetesimals coalesced to create the eventual Goliath, a planet similar in size to her second largest planet in the solar system. doing.

“This is just the first of many exoplanets slated to be studied in detail by the JWST…We are already getting very exciting results,” says Space Telescope Science Research. Astronomer Nestor Espinoza told CNN. “This is just the beginning.”

The findings favorably suggest the ability of Webb’s instrument to survey exoplanets. By revealing detailed descriptors of exoplanet atmospheres, the telescope will perform beyond scientists’ expectations, promising a new phase in the exploration of various exoplanets in our galaxy, according to NASA. .

In a statement, Laura Flagg, a Cornell University researcher and member of the international team that analyzed data from the web, said in a statement, “We will be able to see the full picture of the exoplanet’s atmosphere. “I’m incredibly excited to know that everything will be rewritten. It’s one of the best parts of being a scientist.”

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