NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has demonstrated its unprecedented ability to analyse the atmosphere of a planet more than 1,000 light-years away. With the combined forces of its 270-square-foot mirror, precision spectrographs, and sensitive detectors, Webb has – in a single observation – revealed the unambiguous signature of water, indications of haze, and evidence for clouds that were thought not to exist based on prior observations. The transmission spectrum of the hot gas giant WASP-96 b, made using Webb’s Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph, provides just a glimpse into the brilliant future of exoplanet research with Webb.
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured the distinct signature of water, along with evidence for clouds and haze, in the atmosphere surrounding a hot, puffy gas giant planet orbiting a distant Sun-like star.
The observation, which reveals the presence of specific gas molecules based on tiny decreases in the brightness of precise colors of light, is the most detailed of its kind to date, demonstrating Webb’s unprecedented ability to analyze atmospheres hundreds of light-years away.