Many of the James Webb Space Telescope’s greatest discoveries do not come from amazing space photography. – NFL Sports

Around the turn of the 21st century, a new era of galaxy discovery began.

Through the latest telescopes on earth and in space, astronomers Abundant planets outside our solar system, Is called an exoplanet.In our Milky Way galaxy, scientists have confirmed Over 4,480 extrasolar planets, There are thousands more candidates. Some are probably rocky worlds.Many are part of a class of planets called “Super Earth”, Orbs Two to ten times as large as the refreshing blue world.. The other is a magnificent Jupiter-like gas giant.

Can far exceed Trillion extrasolar planets Only in our galaxy. But we know very little about them.

“We could only barely scratch the surface,” explained Nestor Espinoza, an exoplanet researcher at the Space Telescope Science Institute. Recently released James Webb Space Telescope, Or JWST.

“I could barely scratch the surface.”

The long-awaited telescope Capture some unprecedented images of the deepest areas of the universe, Where the earliest galaxies were formed. But powerful space equipment also spends a fair amount of time — a quarter of its first year, and perhaps more, — looking into extrasolar planets here in the Milky Way.

JWST It is equipped with a special device called a spectrometer., It will revolutionize our understanding of these distant worlds. Discover whether the atmosphere of these planets, trillions of miles away, contains life-prosperous (as we know) essentials such as water, carbon dioxide, and methane. increase. These devices are not expected to provide amazing pictures of exoplanets, but they beam back a wealth of information about the world that we can only imagine.

The artist’s concept of Super Earth Kepler-186f orbiting the stars.
Credits: NASA Ames / SETI Institute / JPL-Caltech

See what you can’t see

Some of the most common exoplanets are super-earth.The Exoplanet Kepler-186fFor example, is a little larger than the Earth and orbits the star in an area where liquid water can exist (called the habitable zone). However, planetary scientists consider other super-earths to be relentless places, such as K2-131b, which orbits very close to the star.Vaporize metal“So far, astronomers have discovered more than 1,500 of these diverse super-earths, but they remain a mystery.

Are any of them as far away as the Earth? I don’t even know if they have an atmosphere.

“Webb enables these detections,” explained Espinoza. Check if any of these planets contain carbon dioxide and water like Earth does. “It’s huge,” he said.

Webb stares at known exoplanets, as opposed to using precious telescope time to search for new exoplanets.Most were discovered by Very productive, planet-searching telescope KeplerianFor nearly a decade, I’ve been staring at the stars in the small windows of the universe, looking for diminished brightness. These dips were often caused by the planets passing in front of the stars. Even the powerful JWST with a golden mirror over 21 feet wide, these distant super-earths appear as dots. But telescopes can still learn a huge amount about the atmosphere of these worlds.

Astronomers employ clever tactics to see what they cannot see. They will wait for the planet to move in front of their bright stars. The light of this star passes through the atmosphere of extrasolar planets, then through space, and finally reaches a device called a spectroscope onboard JWST (a strategy called “transit spectroscopy”). .. They are high-tech prisms in nature, separating light into iridescent colors. Here is a big secret. Certain molecules, such as water in the atmosphere, absorb light of a particular type or color. “Each molecule has a specific diet,” explained Espinoza. Therefore, if that color does not appear in the spectrum of colors observed in the Webb spectrograph, it means that it has been absorbed (or “consumed”) into the atmosphere of an exoplanet. In other words, the element is in the sky of the planet. Spectrographs produce lines (specifying different types of light) rather than clean images. But it is a wealth of valuable information.

Spectrum of light from the James Webb Space Telescope spectroscope

Light spectrum from the test of NIRCam, an imager mounted on the James Webb Space Telescope.
Credits: NIRCam / SPIE / Néstor Espinoza

Extrasolar planets passing in front of the stars

The concept of an exoplanet artist passing in front of a star. This is the case when astronomers use transit spectroscopy.
Credits: ESA / Hubble / NASA / M. Kornmesser

“What will we be able to say? [the planets] Mercedes Lopez Morales, an exoplanet researcher and astrophysicist, said: Astrophysics Center-Harvard & Smithsonian, A joint research group of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Harvard College Observatory. López-Morales belongs to a team studying the atmosphere of exoplanets in future observations of Webb. (The spectrometer collects information about the atmosphere In other waysHowever, she explained that transit spectroscopy is the main method. )

For larger planets orbiting far away from the star, such as Neptune and above, Webb actually takes a direct image of these worlds. These large planets are often young, hot, gaseous monsters that emit much more light than small planets.this is Infrared rays invisible to the human eye, But the web can see it, in sufficient quantity Decoding From trillions of miles away.

James Webb Space Telescope in Space (Illustration)

Illustration of an artist of James Webb Space Telescope looking into space.
Credits: NASA GSFC / CIL / Adriana Manrique Gutierrez

Is there life there?

Webb tells us if our solar system is strange or normal. (Or it may tell us Whether it is normal).

I have a lot of questions. What does most solar systems look like? A planet like Earth is a place that is flooded with water and orbits a relatively comfortable habitable zone, is it unusual? Do our gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn have the same atmosphere as any other such giant?

“For the first time, Webb will allow us to adapt our solar system to the situation,” said Lopez Morales.

But I don’t know if the planet is hosting life. The world may have all the right elements, but identifying life goes far beyond the capabilities of the most powerful space telescope ever built. “Does it have life? That’s a very complicated question,” Espinoza emphasized.

It’s complicated because many ingredients affect habitability. The planet’s atmosphere can be as thick and heavy as Venus, thereby losing the potential for life on the surface. Alternatively, the world is flooded with water, which is dominated by intense ice ages and has few opportunities for life to thrive. This is all essential knowledge. “Insisting on a planet is like the Earth needs a lot of information,” López-Morales said.

But decisively, Webb’s observations will point scientists on exoplanets in the right direction. “It takes us to the next level,” said López-Morales. Planets with elements and conditions somewhat similar to Earth will be scientific gold. Such a world “will soon be a high-priority candidate” for further investigation, she said.

Artist's concept of the surface of an exoplanet

The artist’s concept of the surface of an exoplanet against a star background.
Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech / T. Pyle

55 Cancri e (artist's concept)

Illustration by the artist of 55 Cancri e. In this concept, its surface is covered with lava.
Credit: NASA

A more advanced future telescope, Possibility of being launched into space in the 2030s And it is designed to better explore extrasolar planets like Earth, allowing us to pursue the promising leads of Webb.

Importantly, humanity is pursuing the potential of life on exoplanets in the calm regions of the solar system, thus potentially ignoring other places where life may bloom. is.In our home solar system, scientists Prospects for life forms that thrive in (suspicious) salty waters To Europa, the distant moon of Jupiter.Saturn’s moon Enceladus May host the ocean Under the ice shell. Jason Steffen, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who studies exoplanets, said: Focusing on areas where a world like the Earth may exist can be dazzling.

“We may learn something we never thought of.”

Still, JWST provides humanity with an unprecedented image (although not literally) of what is there, orbiting other stars in the galaxy. Who knows what we find?

“We may learn something we have never thought of before,” said López-Morales.

– NFL Sports

Many of the James Webb Space Telescope’s greatest discoveries do not come from amazing space photography. Many of the James Webb Space Telescope’s greatest discoveries do not come from amazing space photography.

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