NASA Finds Water On Distant Planet With James Webb Space Telescope
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Featured Image Credit: @NASAWebb/Twitter
NASA has discovered water on a distant planet more than 1,150 light-years away from Earth with its James Webb Space Telescope.
The first full set of colour pictures from the groundbreaking project are being unveiled via live stream today, 12 July, marking a historic day in astronomy.
But in a new turn, the space agency announced it had found 'clouds on another world', writing on Twitter: "@NASAWebb captured the signature of water on giant gas planet WASP 96-b, which orbits a star 1,150 light-years away.
"For the first time, we've detected evidence of clouds in this exoplanet's atmosphere."
Many hope that the findings could pave the way for the study of alien life or habitable planets outside of our solar system, with a NASA spokesperson saying: "Exploring exoplanets is now a major component of the mission."
Clouds on another world. @NASAWebb captured the signature of water on giant gas planet WASP 96-b, which orbits a star 1,150 light-years away. For the first time, we've detected evidence of clouds in this exoplanet's atmosphere: https://t.co/63zxpNDi4I #UnfoldTheUniverse pic.twitter.com/f3HOX0HKis— NASA (@NASA) July 12, 2022
But this isn't the only incredible news to have emerged from the James Webb Space Telescope project so far, as one of the preliminary images revealed today shows never-before-seen areas of star birth.
While it might look like an illustration from a sci-fi novel, the space agency explained that the 'mountains' and 'valleys' speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby young star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula.
They said: "Called the Cosmic Cliffs, Webb’s seemingly three-dimensional picture looks like craggy mountains on a moonlit evening.
"In reality, it is the edge of the giant, gaseous cavity within NGC 3324, and the tallest 'peaks' in this image are about seven light-years high.
"The cavernous area has been carved from the nebula by the intense ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds from extremely massive, hot, young stars located in the center of the bubble, above the area shown in this image."
🌟 A star is born!— NASA Webb Telescope (@NASAWebb) July 12, 2022
Behind the curtain of dust and gas in these “Cosmic Cliffs” are previously hidden baby stars, now uncovered by Webb. We know — this is a show-stopper. Just take a second to admire the Carina Nebula in all its glory: https://t.co/tlougFWg8B #UnfoldTheUniverse pic.twitter.com/OiIW2gRnYI
NASA has been developing the James Webb Space Telescope for 30 years, and it has cost a considerable amount of money – around $10 billion – to bring to fruition.
Still, the photos are set to show off the universe in a way that it has never been seen, including colours that haven’t been seen with the human eye, and more depth of resolution than any other telescope.
The huge observatory lifted off into space back on Christmas Day 2021, which must have been a nervous time for everyone behind it.
Given the cost and work that went into building it, the relief upon successfully delivering it to position must have been massive.
The telescope features the largest mirror ever sent into space, measuring at more than 21 feet across, which is designed to gather infra-red light.
It is that infrared light, which is outside the scope of the human eye, that has made it possible to peer further into the nooks and crannies of the universe than any telescope in the past.
If your imagination has been captured by the news so far, you’ll be pleased to learn that there is more to come.
That stream is available on YouTube, as well as on NASA’s website.
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