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Exoplanets LHS 475 b

Context:

Recently, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that the James Webb Space Telescope has discovered its first new exoplanet. Researchers have labelled the planet as LHS 475 b.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About LHS 475 b:
  2. What are exoplanets?
  3. What is NASA’s James Webb Telescope?

About LHS 475 b:

  • It is 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.
  • It’s roughly the same size as Earth.
  • Researchers hope that in the coming years, owing to the Webb telescope’s advanced capabilities, they will be able to detect more Earth-sized planets.
  • So far, most of the discovered exoplanets are similar to Jupiter as Earth-sized planets are much smaller in size and harder to discover with older telescopes.
What are 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.
Why we study exoplanets?
  • The study of exoplanets broadens our understanding of other solar systems and helps us piece together information about our own planetary system and origin.
  • Additionally, it aims to answer one of the most profound questions of humankind: whether or not we are alone in the universe.
  • Researchers study exoplanet characteristics such as mass, diameter, and atmosphere in order to determine whether it is habitable.
  • The distance between an exoplanet and its host star also plays a crucial role in determining its potential habitability, with planets that are too close or too far from the host star being less likely to sustain liquid water.
  • Planets located in the “Goldilocks zone,” where conditions are just right for liquid water, are considered the most likely candidates for habitability.
How are exoplanets discovered?
  • Discovering exoplanets is quite tough as they are small and hard to spot around their bright host stars.
  • Scientists rely on indirect methods, such as the transit method, which is “measuring the dimming of a star that happens to have a planet pass in front of it”, according to NASA.

What is NASA’s James Webb Telescope?

  • The telescope has been in the works for years. NASA led its development with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency.
  • It was launched aboard a rocket on December 25, 2021, and is currently at a point in space known as the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point, approximately 1.5 million km beyond Earth’s orbit around the Sun.
    • Lagrange Point 2 is one of the five points in the orbital plane of the Earth-Sun system.
  • Named after Italian-French mathematician Josephy-Louis Lagrange, the points are in any revolving two-body system like Earth and Sun, marking where the gravitational forces of the two large bodies cancel each other out.
  • Objects placed at these positions are relatively stable and require minimal external energy or fuel to keep themselves there, and so many instruments are positioned here.
  • L2 is a position directly behind Earth in the line joining the Sun and the Earth. It would be shielded from the Sun by the Earth as it goes around the Sun, in sync with the Earth.
What is the mission of the James Webb Space Telescope?

NASA says the James Webb Space Telescope will be “a giant leap forward in our quest to understand the Universe and our origins”, as it will examine every phase of cosmic history: from the Big Bang to the formation of galaxies, stars, and planets to the evolution of our own Solar System.

The science goals for the Webb can be grouped into four themes.

  • To look back around 13.5 billion years to see the first stars and galaxies forming out of the darkness of the early universe.
  • To compare the faintest, earliest galaxies to today’s grand spirals and understand how galaxies assemble over billions of years.
  • To see where stars and planetary systems are being born.
  • To observe the atmospheres of extrasolar planets (beyond our solar system), and perhaps find the building blocks of life elsewhere in the universe. The telescope will also study objects within our own Solar System.

-Source: Indian Express


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