The James Webb Telescope just showed that it can detect signs of life on exoplanets – teach me about science
The elements that make up life as we know it are scattered throughout the universe. After all, in terms of the chemical elements that our bodies are made of, they are not very distinguished, since they are among the most abundant. The main point is that they need to join together and form more complex structures. The question is, how do we know if some features indicate the existence of life?
The new James Webb Space Telescope can do many things, from seeing objects in the solar system that are nearby to the most distant galaxies billions of light years away. That’s not all, you can also determine the chemical composition of the atmospheres of exoplanets. And since we know that the atmosphere plays an important role in the evolution of life, many questions may be answered. Likewise the presence of life alters the atmosphere, and detailed observations can provide evidence of a so-called ‘biological signature’.
It is common in astronomy to see details about the exact temperatures and velocities of objects too far away to visit, impractical to investigate, and in some cases impossible to directly observe. How can such detailed measurements be obtained? The answer is spectroscopy, but let’s go step by step so as not to get lost.
Currently, more than 5 thousand exoplanets have been identified in our galaxy, the Milky Way, and many of them are likely to be habitable. A few days ago, Webb gave us details about the atmosphere of one of these, and we talked about an exoplanet called WASP-96 b, located 1,150 light-years away in the southern sky constellation of Phoenix.
The space telescope has provided the most detailed spectrum of exoplanets to date. Webb discovered the clear fingerprint of water, hints of fog, and evidence of clouds (previously thought not to be there)! This means that the telescope is able to reveal the features of these exoplanets in unprecedented detail, and if there are any, it may soon reveal signs of life. Enjoy the spectra of the exoplanets below.
I know I know. This is not very attractive. However, although it is not a feast for the eyes compared to the great photos, it does give us great information. While images provide information about the size, shape, and structure of matter in space, spectra provide key details such as temperature, composition, and motion. They are just as important!
“If you are not familiar with spectroscopy, it is probably because the spectra (usually presented in graph form) do not usually have much aesthetic appeal,” Web Team explains. “But while they may not seem to receive much press, the spectra are, in fact, humbly behind the scenes of some of the headlines in astronomy.”
Spectroscopy involves the analysis of spectra: the detailed patterns of colors (wavelengths) that substances emit, absorb, transmit, or reflect. It is not something from another world, in other words, we can say that it is just a scientific method of studying objects and materials on the basis of color.
It is not only a unique technology in astronomy, but it is also used in a variety of fields such as materials science, earth sciences, medicine, forensics, national security and food safety. Remember that they are not simple graphics, they are very useful at the moment; So you can smile and be proud to get to know this gem. I hope next time you will have more fun with ghosts.
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