The James Webb Space Telescope has provided images of alien worlds, the pillars of creation where stars are born and distant galaxies.
Now the telescope has confirmed the existence of the first Earth-like planet.
It’s an exoplanet that orbits a star and is classified officially as LHS 475 b, NASA announced.
It is nearly the size of our planet, measuring 99% of the Earth’s diameter.
The team working at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, chose to look in the area after they had reviewed NASA’s Transitioning Exoplanet Survey Satelite known as TESS.
The Webb telescope’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) found the planet with only two transit observations, NASA said.
There is no question that the planet is there. Webb’s pristine data validate it,” Jacob Lustig-Yaeger said.
“The fact that it is also a small, rocky planet is impressive for the observatory,” Kevin Stevenson said.
Stevenson and Lustig-Yaeger are part of the team that confirmed the planet’s existence.
Now they’re trying to determine the makeup of the planet’s atmosphere if there is one.
They know a few things, like what isn’t there.
“There are some terrestrial-type atmospheres that we can rule out,” explained Lustig-Yaeger. “It can’t have a thick methane-dominated atmosphere, similar to that of Saturn’s moon Titan.”
There could be no atmosphere or one made up entirely of carbon dioxide.
They also know the planet is a few hundred degrees warmer than Earth so, if they see clouds, researchers said it may be more like Venus than Earth.
“We’re at the forefront of studying small, rocky exoplanets,” Lustig-Yaeger said. “We have barely begun scratching the surface of what their atmospheres might be like.”
LHS 475 is located 41 light-years from Earth in the constellation Octans, NASA said.
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