Scientists spot entirely new details on a distant planet using the Nasa James Webb Space Telescope

Scientists have spotted new details on a distant planet, in a major breakthrough that could transform the search for extraterrestrial life.

Research has allowed scientists to see atmosphere on a planet outside our solar system in greater detail than ever before. And a version of the new research could one day allow us to see life on other worlds, they say.

The new information was gathered using NASAJames Webb space Telescope. Since its launch last year, scientists have hoped the telescope could be used to study the details of other planets’ atmospheres and give us a better understanding of their conditions.

Now researchers say they’ve collected a whole new level of observational data on another planet, known as WASP-39b. They found entirely new information about its atmospheric chemistry, clouds, and data on its chemical composition that could tell us how the planet formed.

The researchers say the findings are a “game changer” and the start of techniques that could allow researchers to find life on other worlds.

They are reported in five new articles, published in Naturewhich show the full power of the James Webb Space Telescope and are a hint of what it might show in the future.

NASA’s JWST has already changed our understanding of the cosmos, with the release of stunning images that show galaxies and stars in greater detail than ever before. But there’s still a lot to do with the telescope, and scientists have used it to examine other objects, from planets in our solar system to the most distant galaxies in the universe.

The new research was one such project and allowed scientists to focus on the planet WASP-39b. It is thought to be a fluffy version of our Saturn, which is about 700 light years away from us.

Scientists have known about this planet for over 10 years, and that’s exciting in part because it’s thought to have large amounts of water, carbon dioxide and other chemicals in its atmosphere, which could prove useful in the search for extraterrestrial life. But its atmosphere is still largely unknown.

To better understand this, scientists are using JWST to observe the planet pass in front of its star four times in July 2022. In doing so, they can see the colors present in the atmosphere and allow them to infer what might be present there.

This allowed scientists to build a detailed picture of the planet and its atmosphere. This can be used not only to check the details that JWST can see, but also to better understand the planet.

A previously mysterious element in the atmosphere is actually sulfur dioxide, the new study suggests, representing the first time it has been found on another planet. And the ratios of various chemicals in the atmosphere allow us to understand how it could have formed: the fact that there is much more oxygen than carbon, for example, suggests that the planet was born much further away. of its star than it currently is.

The study also indicates that the planet is covered in patches of cloud, in collections rather than as one large blanket over the planet. These clouds are not made up of water like on Earth, but rather of substances such as sulphides and silicates.

In the future, tracking space telescopes that follow the JWST could find extraterrestrial life in the same way. Collecting information about the atmospheres of other worlds could one day allow us to deduce that there are living organisms on a given planet.

As such, the new findings are also a test of the kind of techniques we could use to possibly find extraterrestrials, as well as help shed light on other worlds themselves.

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