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NASA monitors mysterious planets outside our solar system

NASA monitors mysterious planets outside our solar system

Once again, the purchase of the NASA telescope, which cost ten billion US dollars, is paying off: nothing is hidden from James Webb. The space telescope has now detected water vapor around an exoplanet 26 light-years away. Indication of the atmosphere?

The basics in brief

  • The Webb Space Telescope has discovered an exoplanet 26 light-years away that is said to have water vapor around it.

  • Water vapor can give an indication that a planet may have an atmosphere.

  • If water vapor is indeed detected, it would be a major breakthrough for exoplanet research.

The James Webb Space Telescope has the full perspective: Even at a distance of 26 light-years, the telescope can detect previously hidden objects. The latest discovery according to NASA is an exoplanet called GJ 468 b, which is said to be shrouded in water vapor. The rocky planet orbits a red dwarf star – once every 1.5 days.

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GJ 468 b – Too hot to live

Until now, it seemed impossible that an exoplanet so close to its star could have liquid water on its surface. According to the “Frankfurter Rundschau” there should be a boiling point of 430 degrees Celsius on its surface. Too hot to be habitable. However, water vapor could now provide a hint that an atmosphere might exist around the planet. Water vapor, which is found outside our solar system so far only on gaseous planets.

If GJ 468 b is indeed water vapor, it would prove that this exoplanet is similar to Earth and Mars. “The water vapor in the atmosphere around a hot, rocky planet would be a major breakthrough for exoplanet research,” said Kevin Stephenson, who works on the Webb telescope.

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Examine the exoplanet more now

“We’re seeing a signal, and it’s almost certainly from water. But we can’t yet tell if that water is part of the planet’s atmosphere, that is, the planet has an atmosphere, or whether we’re just seeing a water signature,” explains Sarah Moran (University of Arizona). Moran is the lead author of a study addressing this finding.

Further investigations are necessary to clarify whether GJ 468 b is an exoplanet with its own atmosphere. “Webb” is to get more active and take a closer look at the orb: “By combining several instruments it will be possible to determine whether this planet has an atmosphere or not,” Stephenson explains.