Research, Technology

For the first time outside the solar system, carbon dioxide has been detected in the atmosphere of a planet, but what does this mean?

For the first time in the history of space exploration, scientistsCO2 gas has been discovered in the atmosphere of a planet outside the solar system. We are talking about WASP-39b, this exoplanet is a gas giant the size of Saturn, which is located at a distance of 700 light years from Earth. The discovery is of great importance for science. The presence of a particular gas in the atmosphere tells scientists a lot about its origin, including carbon dioxide. In addition, the planet may be potentially habitable on it. But even this is not the most important thing in this find. Scientists were impressed by something else, which we are in a hurry to tell you about.

At a distance of 700 light years, scientists have discovered an exoplanet with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere


  • 1 Why is the discovery of a carbon dioxide exoplanet such a big achievement?
  • 2 How a telescope determines the type of gas in planetary atmospheres
  • 3 What is known about the exoplanet with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
  • 4 How did the giant planets appear?

Why is the discovery of a carbon dioxide exoplanet such a big achievement?

Detect carbon dioxide in a distant atmospherethe planet was succeeded by the James Webb telescope. Recall that this device was launched into space in December last year. Its cost was 10 billion dollars, as we talked about earlier.

According to experts, the current discovery infirst of all, it shows how quickly the James Webb telescope is able to identify gases such as methane or ammonia. The presence of these and some other gases in the atmosphere of planets suggests that they may be suitable for life. In other words, the telescope gives humanity a better chance of finding life in space, as long as it exists outside of our planet.

“The James Webb Telescope opens up a new era of studying the atmosphere of exoplanets,” said Nikku Madhusudhan, an associate at the University of Cambridge.

The telescope's ability to detect carbon dioxidegas, methane and a number of other rare gases is due to the fact that the apparatus is sensitive to infrared radiation, in contrast to such of its "brothers" as Hubble and Spitzer. These telescopes have only detected water vapor, methane and carbon monoxide in the atmospheres of giant hot exoplanets.

The old man Hubble made many discoveries, but in terms of its capabilities it is much inferior to the James Webb telescope

How a telescope determines the type of gas in planetary atmospheres

How does a telescope manage to determine whichAre gases present in the atmosphere of planets hundreds of light years away from Earth? Of course, it is impossible to take a sample for analysis. The only way to get information is to analyze the light output.

A telescope captures light from a star aroundwhich the planet revolves. When this light passes through the planet's atmosphere, it carries the "imprints" of its composition. The fact is that each gas absorbs a light flux with a certain wavelength. The result is dips as the star's light spreads across the spectrum.

You can determine the type of gas in the atmosphere of a planet by the light flux that passes through its atmosphere.

Thus, spectral analysis allowsdetermine which gases filtered the light flux. But not everything is so simple. Most of the gases that scientists are interested in absorb light in the infrared range. Therefore, earlier it was impossible to develop them in the atmospheres of planets. Now scientists have high hopes for the James Webb telescope. It will be able to identify rare gases in the atmospheres of small planets like Earth. It is possible that exoplanets with such gases exist at a relatively short distance from us.

What is known about the exoplanet with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere

As we said above, as an object for ourthe first observations, scientists chose the hot gas giant WASP-39b. The planet makes a complete revolution around its star in 4 days. The orbit has a much smaller diameter than even Mercury.

Spectral analysis so clearly showedthe presence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, that there can be no doubt. The scientists report this on the arXiv preprint server. The article will also be published in the journal Nature.

The James Webb telescope can detect rare gases in the atmosphere of exoplanets

In addition to CO2, scientists have found another gas in the atmosphere,but do not call it yet, since the result requires additional verification. It must be said that water vapor, sodium and potassium were previously discovered on the same planet by other telescopes. Then conclusions were drawn that the planet may contain large reserves of water. However, more detailed information about the composition of the atmosphere of WASP-39b will appear in the coming months after the analysis of new data.

How did the giant planets appear?

The presence of carbon dioxide in the planet's atmosphereindicates the proportion of elements in its composition that are heavier than helium. As you know, the basis for all visible matter that arose as a result of the Big Bang is hydrogen and helium. Anything heavier than these two elements formed in stars much later than the Big Bang.

Exoplanet WASP-39b is similar in size and mass to Saturn

According to scientists, a large supply of heavy elementsplayed a decisive role in the emergence of the giant planets. At the stage when the planet is formed from various materials surrounding the star, heavy elements form grains and pebbles, and then merge into the core. Gradually, it accumulates mass and, under the influence of gravity, begins to attract gases. As a result, over time, the planet turns into a gas giant.

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According to the content of CO2 in the atmosphere WASP-39b,the researchers concluded that the “metallicity” of this planet, that is, the presence of solid substances, is similar to Saturn. This is partly confirmed by the fact that the mass of WASP-39b corresponds to the mass of Saturn. It is possible that the planets have a similar history, despite the fact that their orbits are completely different.

But this is not all the conclusions made thanks to the James Webb telescope. According to scientists, there are real surprises ahead of us.