The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of California Riverside is investigating whether the James Webb Space Telescope or the Hubble Space Telescope can detect the atmospheres of other planets.

According to the specialists involved, this is part of a larger effort to locate additional life forms in Earth-like planets and the tiniest stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, which hosts the solar system.

Knowing whether tiny, rocky planets circling M-dwarfs have atmospheres, according to UCR doctorate student Daria Pidhorodetska, is crucial, according to a Eurekalert story.

Pidhorodetska believes that if these celestial planets have their own atmospheres, they have an excellent possibility of supporting life. However, unless NASA's famous satellite telescopes discover their supposed atmospheres, this remains a hypothesis.

James Webb Space Telescope
(Photo : NASA/Chris Gunn via Wikimedia Commons)
Engineers pose by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope shortly after it emerged from Chamber A at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on Dec. 1, 2017.

NASA James Webb Space Telescope Now Being Examined

According to Phys.Org's most recent article, Pidhorodetska and her team hope to narrow the difference even further when monitoring M-dwarf stars and other small exoplanets.

To do so, they're using the James Webb and Hubble Space Telescopes to see if they can detect the atmospheres of these worlds. Apart from analyzing NASA's massive space telescopes, the team also created models of the various atmospheres they anticipate finding in the tiny stars and planets.

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UCR astrobiologists Stephe Kane and Edward Schwieterman have also joined the new investigation. The latest research includes space specialists from Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and the University of Chicago.

Study's Details Involving NASA James Webb Space Telescope

According to the Florida News Times, the new UCR investigation focuses on the M-type dwarf star L 98-59. This represents just 8 percent of the sun's entire mass. It is, however, around 35 light-years away from Earth.

Despite its enormous distance and small size, researchers have discovered that the radiation it emits is ideal for space observation.

The involved space experts modeled different meteorological situations that may be encountered in L 98-56. Hydrogen atmospheres, Venus-like atmospheres, and water-dominated atmospheres are among them.

They discovered that transit observations, which detect a drop in light when a planet passes in front of its star, may provide complimentary information from the two telescopes. The L 98-59 planets orbit their star at a considerably closer distance than the Earth orbits the sun. They finish their orbits in less than one week, making transit studies by telescope faster and less expensive than in other systems where the planets are further from their stars.

Researchers detailed the findings of their study, "A Benchmark System of Small Planets for Future Atmospheric Characterization," in the Astronomical Journal.

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