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World News May 11, 2023

NASA’s Webb telescope takes closest look yet at mysterious planet

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has made a significant discovery by observing a distant planet called GJ 1214 b, which is outside our solar system. Even though the planet is too hot to contain liquid-water oceans, water in vaporized form could still make up a significant portion of its atmosphere. The research team took a unique approach and tracked GJ 1214 b through nearly its entire orbit around the star, capturing the host star’s light that filtered through the planet’s atmosphere. They created a heat map of the planet using Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument, which revealed the atmosphere’s composition, including details of its day and night sides. According to Eliza Kempton, the lead author of a new paper on the planet, the planet is totally blanketed by a haze or cloud layer, and the atmosphere was hidden from them until this observation. The planet could have been a “water world” with large amounts of watery and icy material at the time of its formation, which is intriguing if it is water-rich.


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