Within the next few decades, the James Webb Space Telescope will explore what the earliest galaxies and stars in the Universe were like, but before then it will make less extreme, but no less surprising, observations. The first goals of the $10 billion observatory include an exoplanet, described as a “super-earth”covered with lava and another astronomical object that does not belong to our solar system whose most interesting feature is that it has no atmosphere.
As we have been telling you over the last few months, after completing the alignment of the main mirror segments, teams from NASA, ESA and CSA have been working to complete the full activation phase of the largest space observatory. largest and complex ever built. With this process nearing completion, we are getting closer to receiving the first image from James Webb, which will operate in its stable L2 orbit, located about 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.
The James Webb will focus its “eyes” on two exoplants
As explained in a Press release, researchers will debut the James Webb spectrographs with two rocky exoplanets. The conditions there are the most extreme: extremely hot days in one, with oceans of lava evaporating, and total darkness in a desert with no atmosphere in the other. Studying them will allow us to understand the geological diversity of these astronomical objects located 50 light years away.
55 Cancers e orbits about 2.4 million kilometers from its host star that is similar to our Sun. This is so, so close that a year on the planet lasts only 18 hours. Its temperature is hot enough to reach the melting point of most rocks, and as if that weren’t enough, the planet, shown in an illustration in the featured image, is thought to be covered in oceans of lava.
Scientists have different hypotheses about the peculiar dynamics of this exoplanet. One is that it has a thick atmosphere that moves heat from one place to another. The other is that there are times when “it rains lava”. James Webb will help us test these hypotheses with its NIRCam near-infrared instrument and its MIRI mid-infrared instrument.
LHS 3844 b, meanwhile, is somewhat cooler than the previous exoplanet. In fact, it doesn’t rain lava here and the heat isn’t overwhelming. The exoplanet orbits a small, “cold” star. Furthermore, observations from Spitzer, a space telescope that has been taken offline after 17 years of activity, suggest that no substantial atmosphere is present. Now the James Webb will be given the task of studying its surface with spectroscopy to better understand its opposite conditions to 55 Cancri e.
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