The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has made a significant discovery in its first six months of operation: its first exoplanet confirmation. The telescope, which is considered to be the most powerful space telescope in operation today, has found a planet named LHS 475 b that is located just 41 light years away from Earth. The planet is 99% the diameter of Earth and is located in the Octans constellation.
The discovery was made by a team of astronomers from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, led by Kevin Stevenson and Jacob Lustig-Yaeger. They first found evidence of the exoplanet while studying data generated by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). However, it was JWST’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) that confirmed the planet’s existence by observing two transits in front of its parent star. The team is confident that there is no question about the planet’s existence, and that JWST’s data validate it.
Among telescopes in operation today, only the JWST possesses the resolving capabilities to accurately characterize the atmospheres of Earth-sized exoplanets. The team is currently working to determine what type of atmosphere, if any, is present on the planet. They are analyzing its transmission spectrum to understand this.
The planet is quite hot, with a surface temperature of around 300 Celsius, several hundred degrees warmer than Earth. If future studies reveal cloud cover, it could suggest a greenhouse world climate, similar to Venus. The researchers have also confirmed that LHS 475 b is in a tidal-locked orbit with its star, with a rotation period of just two days. Despite this close orbit, the planet may be able to maintain an atmosphere because it circles a red dwarf that produces less than half of the energy of our Sun.
In conclusion, the James Webb Space Telescope has confirmed the discovery of a new exoplanet, named LHS 475 b. The planet is 99% the diameter of Earth and is located just 41 light years away. The team is currently working to understand more about the planet’s atmosphere and surface characteristics and the telescope’s capabilities has shown to be powerful in detecting and characterizing the atmosphere of earth-like exoplanet.