Discovering water on a space object, whether it’s a planet. a moon, or even an asteroid or comet, is the dream of many astronomers. That’s because water is crucial for life. Therefore, where there is water, it could also be something alive there.
The James Webb Space Telescope has recently detected water vapor around a main-belt comet, according to Engadget. The discovery is surprising since comets are expected to preserve water ice farther away from our Sun.
However, the telescope’s instruments did not detect any trace of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the comet, which poses a new mystery for scientists. It remains unclear if the absence of CO2 is unique to the observed comet or common among other main belt comets. More studies are necessary to unravel the puzzle, and the idea of a sample collection mission is proposed in order to gather more insights into these comets.
The main asteroid belt is a region of space that’s located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It is a vast expanse that stretches across a huge distance of about 329 million kilometers (204 million miles). The width of the asteroid belt can vary, but on average, and it spans about 1 astronomical unit (AU), which is roughly the same distance from the Earth to the Sun. Within this region, there are millions of asteroids, as it’s impossible to say the exact number. Those asteroids range in size from small boulders to large bodies several hundred kilometers in diameter.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is incredibly powerful, and it represents an advanced observatory designed to study our Universe in various wavelengths, particularly in the infrared range. It is not exaggerated to say that it’s the most powerful space telescope ever built. With its large segmented primary mirror, as it spans 6.5 meters in diameter, James Webb has significantly greater light-gathering capabilities compared to its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.