Former astronaut suggests specific planet for James Webb to search for life
NASA’s James Webb Telescope is preparing to officially begin science operations later this summer. And scientists are already excited that it is starting to scan distant worlds for signs of life.
There are plenty of places to look, of course. Researchers have already confirmed the existence of nearly 5,000 exoplanets, and many more are on the way. And of the roughly 300 million planets suspected of harboring a “Goldilocks” region in which liquid water and therefore life could exist, NASA’s Kepler mission alone has confirmed several hundred.
Canadian astronaut legend Chris Hadfield has his own suggestion, review this past weekend that Kepler-442b would be “an excellent planet for [NASA’s James Webb Telescope] to have. »
Hadfield’s reasoning, according to a quote tweet, was that some experts actually believe that Kepler-442b – which is about 1,200 light-years from Earth, by the way – could be Continued habitable than our own planet.
In an article published in The Astrophysical Journal in 2015, a team of astrobiologists argued that several exoplanets identified by NASA’s Kepler and K2 missions, including Kepler-442b, were very likely to possess liquid surface water, like Earth.
“We ranked the known planets Kepler and K2 for habitability and found that several had higher values of H [the probability of it being terrestrial] than Earth,” reads the newspaper.
The researchers’ goal was to narrow down the number of exoplanet candidates so we could start racing and observing the most likely candidates first.
“Basically, we devised a way to take all the available observational data and develop a prioritization scheme, so that as we enter a period where there are hundreds of targets available, we could be able to say, ‘OK, this is the one we want to start with,’ said lead author Rory Barnes of the University of Washington. Wired in 2015.
NASA’s JWST will use a variety of methods to closely observe the atmospheres of exoplanets orbiting distant stars. Some scientists even suspect that it will be sensitive enough to detect air pollution from any alien civilization lurking there.
Either way, we might find out soon. The telescope recently locked onto its first star and is now calibrating its delicate array of golden mirrors. This is our best chance yet to take a close look at habitable planets outside our own solar system.
Learn more about the JWST: Scientists Are Already Plotting How James Webb Could Detect Alien Civilizations
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