Webb Space Telescope Showcases Its Incredible Power: Detects Water on Distant Planet

A transmission spectrum made from a single observation using Webb’s Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) reveals atmospheric characteristics of the hot gas giant exoplanet WASP-96 b. A transmission spectrum is made by comparing starlight filtered through a planet’s atmosphere as it moves across the star, to the unfiltered starlight detected when the planet is beside the star. Each of the 141 data points (white circles) on this graph represents the amount of a specific wavelength of light that is blocked by the planet and absorbed by its atmosphere. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, ST

Webb’s Gigantic Mirror and Precision Instrumentation Join Forces To Capture the Most Detailed Spectrum of an Exoplanet Atmosphere Ever

In a remarkable dream come true for exoplaneteers, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has demonstrated its unprecedented capacity to analyze the atmosphere of an exoplanet more than 1,000 light-years away. With the combined forces of its 270-square-foot (25-square-meter) mirror, precision spectrographs, and sensitive detectors, Webb has – in a single observation – detected the unambiguous signature of water, indications of haze, and evidence for clouds that were thought not to exist based on prior observations. The transmission spectrum of the hot gas giant WASP-96 b, made using Webb’s Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS), offers just a glimpse into Webb’s exciting future of exoplanet exploration.

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