International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

James Webb Telescope discovers its first Earth-sized Exoplanet

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : JSWT, Exoplanets, Goldilock Zone

Mains level : Not Much

exoplanet

NASA has announced that the James Webb Space Telescope has discovered its first new exoplanet LHS 475 b.

LHS 475 b

  • The exoplanet LHS 475 b is roughly the same size as Earth.
  • Located just 41 light-years away, the planet orbits very close to a red dwarf star and completes a full orbit in just two days.

Red Dwarf Stars

  • As mentioned before, the newly discovered exoplanet orbits around a red dwarf star.
  • Such types of stars are the most common and smallest in the universe.
  • As they don’t radiate much light, it’s very tough to detect them with the naked eye from Earth.
  • However, as red dwarfs are dimmer than other stars, it is easier to find exoplanets that surround them.
  • Therefore, red dwarfs are a popular target for planet hunting.

What are Exoplanets?

  • Exoplanets are planets that orbit other stars and are beyond our solar system.
  • According to NASA, to date, more than 5,000 exoplanets have been discovered.
  • Scientists believe that there are more planets than stars as each star has at least one planet orbiting it.
  • Exoplanets come in a host of different sizes. They can be gas giants bigger than Jupiter or as small and rocky as Earth.
  • They are also known to have different kinds of temperatures — boiling hot to freezing cold.

Significance of exoplanets study

  • Studying exoplanets not only broadens our understanding of other solar systems but also helps us piece together information about our own planetary system and origin.
  • However, the most compelling reason to learn about them is to find extraterrestrial life.
  • Researchers emphasize on determining if exoplanets are solid or gaseous or even has water vapour in the atmosphere.
  • This helps scientists determine if a discovered world is habitable or not.
  • Another important element of the study is finding out the distance between an exoplanet and its host star.

Do you know?

If an exoplanet is too close to the star, it might be too hot to sustain liquid water. If it’s too far, it might only have frozen water. When such a planet is at a distance that enables it to have liquid water, it is said to be in the “Goldilocks zone”.

 

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