TechJames Webb Space Telescope uncovers Earth's size twin exoplanet, LHS 475 b

James Webb Space Telescope uncovers Earth's size twin exoplanet, LHS 475 b

LHS 475 b - Earth's Twin
LHS 475 b - Earth's Twin
Images source: © NASA

11:02 AM EST, January 16, 2024

Identified by the James Webb Space Telescope, the exoplanet LHS 475 b stands out due to its close size resemblance to our home planet. Its diameter measures roughly 99 percent of Earth's.

The discovery emerged from the efforts of a team of researchers headed by Kevin Stevenson and Jacob Lustig-Yaeger from Johns Hopkins University in Laurel, Maryland. Initially, the scientists observed the object through the TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) telescope. Further inspection was conducted using the NIROSpec spectroscope of the James Webb Telescope, thereby confirming the planet's existence.

"There is no question that the planet is there. Webb's pristine data validate it," proclaimed Lustig-Yaeger.

NASA's Director of Astrophysics at their headquarters in Washington, Mark Clampin, emphasized that the James Webb Space Telescope propels humanity toward a superior understanding of Earth-like planets existing far beyond our Solar System.

"These first observational results from an Earth-size, rocky planet open the door to many future possibilities for studying rocky planet atmospheres with Webb," Clampin remarked.

Life is null on this Earth twin

The James Webb Space Telescope remains the only telescope capable of analyzing the atmospheres of freshly discovered planets based on the study of light emitted from the star around which these planets orbit.

However, with regards to LHS 475 b, this proved impracticable. Additional observations are necessary. Only the absence of a methane-dominant atmosphere, akin to that found on Titan, Saturn's moon, has been ascertained so far. Further observation to either affirm or deny the presence of an atmosphere on this new planet is scheduled for summer 2023.

LHS 475 b raises several intriguing points of interest. Firstly, it completes an orbit around its star in record time - merely two Earth days. Secondly, conditions there are markedly warmer than on Earth, with temperatures reaching hundreds of degrees Celsius. Upon further examination, it may be revealed that the planet is more comparable to Venus than Earth.

LHS 475 b maintains an orbit around its star that is closer than any planet in our Solar System. That said, the core of this star is a red dwarf, which is over half as cool as our Sun. Hence, scientists posit that this celestial object could sustain an atmosphere.

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