NASA recently announced that Webb will study clouds on other planets. Can it find life? See here
Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 14 April 2022, at 10:41 am Los Angeles time
James Webb Telescope is preparing for some spectacular research! But we have little to look forward to.
NASA recently completed the 7th and final phase of mirror alignment, by cooling Webb's 4 scientific instruments and configuring the hardware.
The team coordinating Webb has just announced that the Mid-Infrared (MIRI) instrument has reached operating temperature, which is less than 7 K (-447 degrees Fahrenheit, or -266 degrees Celsius). Also, the other instruments reached the operating temperatures, slightly higher than those of MIRI.
You can find more here.
Before the observations, NASA will make an analysis and verification of the process that the MIRI instrument has made, and then it will make a possible final verification on the telescope, and then begin the research and observations.
Webb will follow to investigate the formation of exoplanets, that is, planets outside the solar system. It will also study their composition, as well as possible clouds that these exoplanets may have above the surface.
Will he be able to find life on other planets?
Probable. If it exists on the exoplanet that Webb will study, then we will probably have important information if life exists there.
We remind you that researchers have found possible traces of life in the atmosphere of Venus.
And Webb is not just any telescope, but the most powerful telescope that mankind has made since Galileo Galilei designed the first modern telescope.
Even on the surface of the panels, Webb would be able to find traces of life. The advanced technology with which it is equipped, allows it to detect traces of life on other exoplanets.
But until we can confirm this, we will have to wait.
* When we refer to traces of life, we are not referring to aliens, but to possible molecules and chemical reactions that may make life possible.
For example, ammonia has been discovered on Venus, which can cause chemical reactions in the chain, removing sulfuric acid from Venus upper atmosphere, making life possible.
In any case, we will have to wait until Webb brings us some attractive data for scientists.
Only then will we know what Webb is capable of.
Knicole Colón, Webb's deputy project scientist for exoplanet science, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said the following:
"Over the last 30 years, astronomers have discovered over 5,000 extrasolar planets. These discoveries have revealed that exoplanets span a vast range of masses, sizes, and temperatures and orbit all types of stars, leading to extraordinarily diverse worlds.
"With its powerful spectroscopic and imaging capabilities across a wide infrared wavelength range, Webb is poised to revolutionize our knowledge of the composition of these worlds and of planet-forming disks. From small, potentially rocky exoplanets up to giant, gaseous ones, Webb will observe these worlds with the transit technique. Direct imaging techniques will be used to study young, giant exoplanets along with the environments in which planets form and evolve around stars, known as protoplanetary disks and debris disks.
"One specific exoplanet observation that will be done with Webb involves collecting observations over the course of a planet's orbit to enable measurements of the atmospheric composition and dynamics. I am involved in a program to observe the gas giant HD 80606 b as part of Webb's first year of observations. Because the orbit of HD 80606 b is extremely eccentric (non-circular) and long (111 days), the amount of energy received by the planet from its star ranges from approximately 1 to 950 times what Earth receives from the Sun! This results in extreme temperature variations, which are predicted to cause clouds to rapidly form and dissipate in the planet's atmosphere on very short timescales. Our science team will probe these predicted cloud dynamics in real-time over the course of a continuous ~18 hour observation of HD 80606 b as it passes behind its star, using the NIRSpec instrument on Webb to measure thermal light from the planet's atmosphere.
"Beyond gas giants, a number of Webb's exoplanet targets in its first year of observations are small and orbit stars that are smaller and cooler than the Sun, known as M dwarfs. While exoplanet discovery began around 30 years ago, many of these small exoplanets around M dwarfs were just discovered in the last few years by surveys like TESS. Webb observations will start to reveal the diversity of atmospheres that exist on these small planets by searching for evidence of molecules like water, carbon dioxide, and methane in their atmospheres. Because M dwarfs are typically much more active than the Sun and have energetic stellar flares that could potentially strip the atmospheres off of these planets, Webb observations may even reveal that some of these small planets have no atmosphere at all.
"With TESS and other surveys continuing to discover additional planets in our galaxy at a regular pace and Webb preparing to study the atmospheres of many of these newly discovered worlds, our exoplanet adventures are in many ways just beginning."
Source: NASA James Webb Telescope