Webb Telescope Spots Carbon Dioxide in Exoplanet Atmosphere for First Time

Thu, 08/25/2022 - 14:55
Jeremy Rehm

From capturing sharp infrared images of Jupiter and three of its moons to capturing images of the farthest, oldest galaxies anyone has ever seen, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has blown everyone away.

But Webb just keeps on giving. Scientists now report in a new study accepted for publication in Nature that the telescope has for the first time definitively detected carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of an exoplanet — a planet orbiting another star. It’s a major milestone that underscores Webb’s incredible capabilities and promises exciting results to come when researchers use the telescope to peer at smaller, more Earth-like worlds around the galaxy.

“It’s very exciting!” exclaimed Kevin Stevenson, an astrophysicist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, and a study co-author. “We’ve never had access to the wavelengths needed to see the molecular signature of carbon dioxide. Webb is turning exoplanet science into planetary science.”