NASA’s largest space telescope scored yet another first-ever discovery with the help of experts from the University of Bristol. It has unveiled a comprehensive molecular and chemical profile of an exoplanet.
Readings have identified not only a full menu of atoms and molecules, but also signs of active clouds and chemistry. It has been analysed by a team of global leading scientists, including astrophysicists representing the University of Bristol.
An exoplanet is a term used to describe a planet that orbits a star that is located outside of our solar system. It is understood that a majority of the around 100 known exoplanets are comparable in mass to Jupiter.
The details have revealed how clouds might look up close, adopting a broken up composition instead of a single blanket over the entire planet. It has also uncovered the presence of sulphur dioxide in the exoplanet’s atmosphere, which is very similar to that of the Earth’s ozone layer.
Reacting to the revelation, Dr Hannah Wakeford, who is an astrophysicist at the University of Bristol’s School of Physics, said: “When I first saw the data I cried. We had predicted what the telescope would show us, but it was more precise, more diverse, and more beautiful than I actually believed it would be.”
It is understood that the JWST, which is the name of NASA’s largest space telescope that was used in the discovery, acted well beyond scientists’ expectations. Precisely parsing an exoplanet atmosphere, Dr Wakeford followed up by stating: “I was surprised at how well these independent observations confirmed each other’s conclusions. One dataset after another confirmed what we were seeing. That is science in action! The data has taken us to some of the most exciting science questions and I am certain it will be the first of many new and exciting avenues of exoplanet science.”
The new discoveries are detailed in a set of five scientific papers, of which three are in press and two are awaiting a review. One of the five papers has been led by Lili Anderson, who is a University of Bristol representative and astrophysicist.