"A turning point": NASA celebrates groundbreaking discovery of exoplanets
Created: 11/24/2022, 7:44 p.m
By: Nadja Zinsmeister
Researchers are over the moon: With NASA's "James Webb" telescope, an exoplanet has now been examined more comprehensively than ever before.
Researchers made a groundbreaking discovery this summer.
NASA's James Webb Telescope has made it possible to study an exoplanet more fully than ever before.
In the process, the researchers also became aware of a new component in the planet's gas envelope, which until now had only been found on terrestrial worlds like Earth.
NASA also made a groundbreaking discovery on Mars in September.
"James Webb" telescope enables completely new studies of exoplanets
It is the exoplanet WASP-39b, which is about 700 light-years from Earth and is said to be about the size of Saturn.
However, since it is said to be around eight times closer to its star, it is called "Hot Saturn".
An exoplanet is a planet that is outside of our solar system and is instead under the influence of another star, i.e. part of another planetary system.
So also WASP-39b.
A comprehensive data analysis by numerous researchers in the summer of 2022 then came to the conclusion that there is something special about this exoplanet: In addition to water, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sodium and potassium, sulfur dioxide was also detected in the planet's atmosphere for the first time, they say Research results published in the journal
While the occurrence of sulfur dioxide is normal for terrestrial worlds like Earth or Venus, since they are outgassed by volcanoes, the discovery for an exoplanet is of great importance.
Accordingly, it is a sign that active chemical processes are taking place within the planet's atmosphere that enable the formation of sulfur dioxide.
"Data is a turning point": Researchers gain important insights into exoplanets
According to the researchers, discoveries like these are only possible with the new James Webb telescope.
With its help, one can now learn much more "about the atmospheric properties and consequently about the history of formation, the physics and the chemistry of the orbiting exoplanets".
"Accessing an exoplanet's chemical inventory requires high-precision observations, often derived from single molecular discoveries using low-resolution space-based and high-resolution, ground-based facilities."
"James Webb" telescope: NASA excited about discovery
NASA proudly tweeted about the new achievement in astrophysics after analyzing the exoplanet.
"The latest data from Webb provide us with the first molecular and chemical profile of a distant world, the gas giant WASP-39 b.
This bodes well for its ability to probe the atmospheres of small, rocky planets like those in the TRAPPIST-1 system," she wrote on Twitter.
Natalie Batalha, an astronomer at the University of California who helped with the research, proudly proclaimed, "Data like this is a game changer."
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The last time NASA made such a discovery was when it was studying another exoplanet.