James Webb Space Telescope detects CO2 on distant planet

NASA has detected carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a distant planet called WASP-39b using the powerful imaging capabilities offered by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

The space agency describes(Opens in a new window) the discovery as “the first clear evidence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet outside the solar system” – WASP-39b is about 700 light-years away – which “provides important information about the composition and formation of the planet”.

CO2 evidence on WASP-39b was collected via the Near Infrared Spectrograph(Opens in a new window)which researchers use to determine the composition of a planet’s atmosphere based on “small differences in the brightness of transmitted light over a spectrum of wavelengths,” on JWST.

Detecting CO2 on WASP-39b could allow further research into planet formation, researcher Mike Line said in a statement, because it can be used to “determine the amount of solid matter versus the amount of gas that was used to form this gas giant planet. “

Natalie Batalha, JWST Transiting Exoplanet Community Early Release Science Team Leader, said in a statement that “the detection of such a clear signal of carbon dioxide on WASP-39b bodes well for the detection of atmospheres on smaller, Earth-sized planets”.

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NASA says this information was made public as part of Early Release Science(Opens in a new window) program intended to give researchers access to JWST-related results as soon as possible. The research would also have been accepted for publication by the Nature scientific journal.

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