NASA finds first clear evidence of CO2 in an exoplanet’s atmosphere

of NASA James Webb Space Telescope has become known for capturing stunning images of space, but the telescope recently made a different discovery –– the first clear indication of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet outside the solar system.

CO2 – the compound exhaled by humans – was found in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting a star 700 light-years away, NASA said.

The hot gas giant planet was discovered in 2011 and named WASP-39 b. Its mass is about a quarter that of Jupiter and about the same as that of Saturn. However, its diameter is 1.3 times that of Jupiter.

The finding suggests that the Webb Space Telescope may be able to detect and measure carbon dioxide in the thinner atmospheres of smaller rocky planets in the future.

NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer have detected water vapor, sodium and potassium in the atmosphere of WASP-39 b.

Earlier this month, NASA released a false color composite image of Jupiter taken by the James Webb Space Telescope on July 27, 2022. / Credit: NASA via AP

“The detection of such a clear carbon dioxide signal in WASP-39 b bodes well for detecting atmospheres on smaller Earth-sized planets,” said Natalie Batalha of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Batalha led the research team, which used Webb’s near-infrared spectrograph for the observations of WASP-39 b.

“As soon as the data appeared on my screen, the striking feature of carbon dioxide grabbed me,” said Zafar Rustamkulov, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the JWST Transiting Exoplanet Community Early Release Science team. “It was a special moment, crossing an important threshold in exoplanet science.”

The composition of a planet’s atmosphere can tell us something about the planet’s origin and how it evolved, NASA says.

“Carbon dioxide molecules are sensitive tracers of planet formation history,” said Mike Line of Arizona State University, another member of the research team. “By measuring this characteristic of carbon dioxide, we can determine how much solid versus how much gaseous material was used to form this gas giant planet.

The first color image from the James Webb Space Telescope was unveiled Monday, July 11, 2022, by NASA and President Joe Biden.  / Credit: NASA

The first color image from the James Webb Space Telescope was unveiled Monday, July 11, 2022, by NASA and President Joe Biden. / Credit: NASA

The team will continue to measure it on other planets over the next decade, and the research may help provide insights into how planets form and how unique our own solar system is.

This week, NASA released more of the findings of the Webb Space Telescope. In July, Webb captured unprecedented images of Jupiter’s northern and southern lights, swirling polar fog, its Great Red Spot and faint rings.

“We’ve never seen Jupiter like this. It’s all incredible,” planetary astronomer Imke de Pater, of the University of California, Berkeley, said in a statement. It helped drive the observation. “We didn’t really expect it to be this good, to be honest.”

And earlier this month, impressive images captured by Webb of a distant galaxy were released.

NASA is preparing to launch the Artemis program, with its eyes on the moon

What you need to know about First Lady Jill Biden’s COVID recovery, plans for new boosters and more

MoneyWatch: The Uncertain Economy: Where have the workers gone?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *