The James Webb Space Telescope conducted a detailed study of the atmosphere of the exoplanet WASP-39b. It finds out that there are clouds of sulfur dioxide on this “hot Jupiter” and understands what its past is like.
James Webb explored the atmosphere of “hot Jupiter”
The James Webb Space Telescope, which began its work this year, has completed the first full scan of the atmosphere of an exoplanet using all the instruments on board. Its target was the “hot Jupiter” WASP-39b. This gas giant is about three times smaller than Jupiter, which is 700 light-years away.
Even by the beginning of James Webb’s observations, this planet had already been well explored. Scientists have known that it is a gas giant about three times smaller than Jupiter and is located at a distance of only 7 million km from its star.
All this made it a convenient object for research. Back in August 2022, James Webb discovered that carbon dioxide is present in the atmosphere of WASP-39b. Currently, researchers have published a detailed study of the gas envelope of this exoplanet.
The study was carried out using three instruments on board the space observatory. These were its main NIRCam camera and two spectroscopes: NIRISS and NIRSpec. Thanks to them, it was possible to learn many amazing details about the atmosphere of WASP-39b.
What scientists managed to find out about WASP-39b
Thanks to the work of James Webb, WASP-39b is now a planet with a better studied chemical composition of the atmosphere. And scientists even know something about what it looks like. For example, scientists have learned that on the planet there is a process of transformation of molecules under the influence of star radiation, similar to the formation of ozone on Earth.
Only on WASP-39b is sulfur dioxide formed in this way. There is a lot of the latter in the atmosphere of the planet in general. Scientists have come to the conclusion that it is generally covered with a dense layer of clouds consisting of this chemical material and silicates.
However, they were not the only ones found in the atmosphere of “hot Jupiter“. Carbon, oxygen, potassium and hydrogen are also present there. Analyzing the ratio of these elements, astronomers came to the conclusion that once upon a time WASP-39b was formed as a result of the collision of several planetesimals.
They also analyzed the ratio of oxygen to carbon in the clouds of WASP-39b and came to the conclusion that such a large content of it can only be explained by the fact that the planet was formed farther away from the star than now.
In addition, scientists have tested techniques on this gas giant that could potentially indicate the presence of life on the planet. On it, due to the high temperature, such a possibility is excluded. But on colder planets, comparing the actual data with the predicted ones, it can be detected.
According to www.space.com
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