The purpose of the James Webb Space Telescope was made clear from the start: to extend the discoveries of Hubble using advanced infrared tools. After already bringing back some mesmerizing photos of the Universe, even though it was launched less than a year ago, Webb has now laid ‘eyes’ on a ‘hot Saturn’ located 700 light-years away from us.
The WASP-39b is the exoplanet in question, one that was discovered by astronomers long before the new observations coming from the James Webb Telescope. Thanks to the fresh insight offered by NASA’s next-gen telescope, it has now been revealed that the atmosphere of WASP-39b is very poisonous, according to Gizmodo.
A huge Hellish world
The WASP-39b exoplanet is about as large as Jupiter, the biggest planet in our Solar System. WASP-39b is also orbiting its host star very close – at about the same distance that separates Mercury from the Sun. Therefore, let’s just say that the weather on the exoplanet is way too hot to ever consider spending a vacation there.
Apart from the somewhat logical amounts of carbon dioxide existing in the atmosphere of WASP-39b, it has now been discovered that there are also chemicals such as sulfur dioxide, sodium, carbon monoxide, and potassium there.
Shang-Min Tsai from the University of Oxford explained as Gizmodo quotes:
This is the first time we have seen concrete evidence of photochemistry — chemical reactions initiated by energetic stellar light — on exoplanets,
I see this as a really promising outlook for advancing our understanding of exoplanet atmospheres with [this mission].
There’s no wonder why astronomers consider the WASP-39b as being a hot Saturn. The exoplanet is mostly made of gases, and it has about the same mass as Saturn.
Just a few days ago, we also shared the news about the James Webb Telescope possibly discovering the oldest galaxy in the Universe.