James Webb Discovery - First Evidence of Carbon Dioxide on an Exoplanet

August 25, 2022

In a ground breaking discovery by James Webb Telescope, for the first time in the history of space exploration, clear evidence of carbon dioxide has been found in the atmosphere of an exoplanet - Wasp 39b. This observation was made by Webb’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) which observed Wasp 39b during a transit over its star on July 10, 2022 and was made public on August 25, 2022. In the resulting spectrum of the exoplanet’s atmosphere, a small hill between 4.1 and 4.6 microns presents the first clear, detailed evidence for carbon dioxide ever detected in a planet outside the solar system.

Previously, NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes have detected large amount of water in the atmosphere of WASP-39b, a hot, bloated, Saturn-mass exoplanet that resides about 700 light-years from Earth. This exoplanet is estimated to have three times as much water as Saturn does. Wasp 39b is currently positioned more than 20 times closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun and completes an orbit around its star in every four days.

This is a very important discovery as carbon dioxide is building block of life and presence of carbon dioxide in exoplanet atmospheres increases chances of finding life elsewhere in the Universe.

Source/Credit - NASA