Africa-Press – Liberia. Located 40 light-years away from the planet we live on, GJ 1214 b is an exoplanet bigger than our Earth, but smaller than Neptune. It was first discovered in 2009, and scientists have been eager to study it, but a thick layer of haze prevented the Hubble Space Telescope from doing so.
A mystery planet that has long been eyed by scientists, but hidden from telescope view due to the thick haze shrouding it likely contains water vapor, new research has shown.
While too hot to be habitable, exoplanet GJ 1214b has an atmosphere that also, possibly, contains methane, state findings published in Nature.
The team led by scientists with the University of Maryland and the University of Chicago used NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which can see in the mid-infrared spectrum, as they embarked upon a quest to investigate GJ 1214b. Astronomers tried to do that before using the Hubble Space Telescope, but failed. Now, the JWST’s powerful Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI) offered a glimpse at the atmospheric composition and temperature of the exoplanet. Observations were carried out as the planet orbited its star, with a “heat map” created, showing the mini-Neptune’s both day and night sides.
This was the first time that light emitted by this “sub-Neptune” category of planets – seemingly the most common in the Milky Way galaxy – was directly detected.
It was this temperature swing that was seen as proof of the presence of heavy molecules, like H2O (water) and CH4 (methane). Water and methane, scientists underscored, were vitally important clues to the planet’s evolution.
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