Life in space has long been an enigmatic subject for mankind. There is almost no hope for the planets in our solar system. On the other hand, the study of exoplanets outside the solar system also challenges the limits of the technology we have developed, at least until now. There have been some studies conducted on exoplanets over the past few decades, and one found it to have an atmosphere similar to Earth’s.
And now the James Webb Telescope is a crucial step in giving us the best information about the potential for life in exoplanets, according to NASA.
NASA’s Ames Research Center, based in California’s Silicon Valley, plans to conduct exoplanet research using the James Webb Space Telescope in a world first. Of course, as the scope of the planet in the study broadens, so does the diversity. “The diversity of planets that we have discovered in the galaxy far exceeds the diversity of planets in our solar system,” said Natasha Batalha, who is a co-investigator of several Webb programs and a researcher at Ames. “In our solar system, we have the inner rocky worlds & the outer gaseous planets, but the most common exoplanets we see are actually somewhere in between.
Baltaha’s team will investigate 11 planets among those mentioned in between. Their goal is to get a basic idea of how these exoplanets formed & evolved to understand if such planets have an atmosphere or life on them is possible.
Searching for potentially habitable exoplanets
“A planet’s atmosphere is essential for possibility of life as we know it,” said Thomas Greene, an astrophysicist at Ames. “We developed the Webb instruments to give us the data we need not only to detect atmospheres but also to determine what they are made of.
James Webb is expected to collect data on a rocky exoplanet called TRAPPIST-1b. Although information about this planet is limited, TRAPPIST-1b is known to be the innermost planet in its system & orbits very close to its small, cool, & dwarf host star. With information provided by James Webb, more information can reveal if the planet has the potential to support life.
Back to Natasha Baltaha, she investigates 5 exoplanets, two of which TRAPPIST-1h & TRAPPIST-1e are in the same system with TRAPPIST-1b. TRAPPIST1e is also known to be located in the habitable zone. Once the observations are complete, it can be revealed if these planets have atmospheres and if so, what they are made of.
There’s a lot to discover about Earth, let alone solar system. But knowing more about exoplanets could help us understand the prospects for habitability and guide us in better methods & directions in our exploration of space.