James Webb surveys the universe in search of Solar System 2.0

The seven planets surrounding the  TRAPPIST-1  star have become a focus for the scientists


Its behind James Webb , whose technologies allow their atmospheres to be investigated from our Earth.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has begun to investigate the atmospheres of some of the seven rocky worlds that orbit the star TRAPPIST-1 , considered Solar System 2.0 .

Webb’s NIRSpec instrument makes it the only telescope capable of identifying the signatures of molecules such as methane, carbon dioxide and oxygen, possible signs of life on the surface and clues to the composition of a planet’s atmosphere. After some promising work decoding the gases present in WASP – 39b ‘s atmosphere , last week astronomers were finally able to take a look at Webb’s first observation of the TRAPPIST-1 system , located 39 light-years away.

There are no major discoveries… for the moment

It has not yet been reviewed or published, but at a conference in December at JWST’s headquarters, the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, scientists discussed initial data from the telescope’s observations of TRAPPIST-1g, the second planet. farthest from the star, reports Space.com.

Björn Benneke, an astronomer at the University of Montreal (Canada), showed that TRAPPIST-1g does not have a hydrogen-rich atmosphere. Olivia Lim, a PhD student at the University of Montreal, also presented a poster with similar results for TRAPPIST-1b (part of a TRAPPIST-1 all-planet reconnaissance program ), as did Alexander Rathcke, an astronomer at the Smithsonian Center for Harvard Astrophysics, for TRAPPIST-1c observations.

Thus, the first JWST observations did not discover any TRAPPIST-1 planets with evidence of a life-friendly atmosphere. However, this is an appreciation to understand how to best utilize the precision of JWST and its various instruments.

“Those first observations will get us to the same level we got to with Hubble, more or less, but we’ll know how to use the instruments we want to use,” Lewis said. “It will take multiple observations with James Webb to accumulate the signals we need, and with the longevity of JWST we will be able to keep revisiting and learning more.”

Lewis will study TRAPPIST-1e. “It is the one that is in the middle of the habitable zone and is the closest to the size of the Earth,” he explains. In addition, he is collaborating with the University of Montreal because his observations of TRAPPIST-1d and TRAPPIST-1f – two other habitable zone planets – will make a fascinating comparative sample. (Europe Press).