August 25, 2022
Scientists have announced that NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has allowed them to capture definitive evidence for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet about 700 light-years away from Earth.
The finding, accepted for publication in Nature, is the first indisputable evidence for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting a distant star.
The results are indicative of the telescope’s ability to spot key molecules like carbon dioxide in a wide variety of exoplanets—including smaller, cooler, rocky planets—providing insights into the composition, formation, and evolution of planets across the galaxy.
“When we first looked at this data, all I could say was, ‘Holy cow,’” said Jacob Bean, a UChicago astronomer who co-leads the team working to analyze exoplanet results from the new telescope. “The whole group was just blown away. The telescope is working even better than we hoped it would.
“And this discovery is from just a small portion of the observing time,” he said. “This is like the first chapter in an entirely new book we’ll be writing about exoplanets in the coming months.”