Webb Space Telescope Discovers Important Molecules on Exoplanet K2-18 b

Webb Space Telescope Discovers Important Molecules on Exoplanet K2-18 b

This craftsman’s idea shows what exoplanet K2-18 b could resemble in view of science information. Exoplanet K2-18 b is 120 light-years away and has a mass 8.6 times that of Earth. It orbits the habitable zone of the cool dwarf star K2-18. Using NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, a new examination of K2-18 b has revealed the presence of carbon-bearing molecules like carbon dioxide and methane. The wealth of methane and carbon dioxide, and deficiency of smelling salts, support the speculation that there might be a water sea under a hydrogen-rich environment in K2-18 b. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Joseph Olmsted (STScI), Nikku Madhusudhan (IoA).

Exoplanets with possible liquid ocean surfaces are suggested by data.

Carbon-bearing atoms have been found in the air of the tenable zone exoplanet K2-18 b by a global group of cosmologists utilizing information from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. These outcomes are steady with an exoplanet that might contain sea covered surface under a hydrogen-rich climate. This discovery sheds new light on a planet unlike any other in our Solar System and raises intriguing questions regarding other worlds that might be habitable.

Webb’s NIRISS (Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph) and NIRSpec (Near-Infrared Spectrograph) spectra of K2-18 b show a lot of methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of the exoplanet and the possibility of finding a molecule called dimethyl sulfide (DMS). The discovery of methane and carbon dioxide, and lack of smelling salts, support the speculation that there might be a water sea under a hydrogen-rich environment in K2-18 b. K2-18 b, 8.6 times as gigantic as Earth, circles the cool small star K2-18 in the tenable zone and lies 120 light-years from Earth. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Ralf Crawford (STScI), Joseph Olmsted (STScI), and Nikku Madhusudhan (IoA) Webb Discovers Methane and Carbon Dioxide in K2-18 b’s Atmosphere A new investigation carried out with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope into K2-18 b, an exoplanet that is 8.6 times larger than Earth, has revealed the presence of carbon-bearing Webb’s disclosure adds to ongoing examinations proposing that K2-18 b could be a Hycean exoplanet, one which can possibly have a hydrogen-rich air and a water sea covered surface.

Observations made with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope provided the first insight into the habitable-zone exoplanet’s atmospheric properties, which sparked subsequent research that has altered our comprehension of the system.

In the constellation Leo, 120 light-years from Earth, K2-18 b revolves around the cool dwarf star K2-18 in the habitable zone. K2-18 b and other exoplanets with sizes between Earth and Neptune are unlike anything else in our solar system. These “sub-Neptunes” are poorly understood due to the lack of comparable nearby planets, and the nature of their atmospheres is a topic of heated debate among astronomers.

Implications for Life on Exoplanets

The possibility that the sub-Neptunian planet K2-18 b is a Hycean exoplanet is intriguing because, according to some astronomers, these worlds offer promising environments in which to look for evidence of life on exoplanets.

“Our findings underscore the importance of considering diverse habitable environments in the search for life elsewhere,” explained Nikku Madhusudhan, an astronomer at the University of Cambridge and lead author of the paper announcing these results. “Traditionally, the search for life on exoplanets has focused primarily on smaller rocky planets, but the larger Hycean worlds are significantly more conducive to atmospheric observations.”

The wealth of methane and carbon dioxide, and lack of smelling salts, support the speculation that there might be a water sea under a hydrogen-rich air in K2-18 b. These underlying Webb perceptions likewise gave a potential recognition of a particle called dimethyl sulfide (DMS). This is only produced by life on Earth. The main part of the DMS in Earth’s air is discharged from phytoplankton in marine conditions.

The induction of DMS is less vigorous and requires further approval.

“Upcoming Webb observations should be able to confirm if DMS is indeed present in the atmosphere of K2-18 b at significant levels,” explained Madhusudhan.

The fact that K2-18 b lies in the habitable zone and is known to contain carbon-bearing molecules does not necessarily imply that the planet can support life.

Characterizing Exoplanet Atmospheres With a radius that is 2.6 times that of Earth, the planet probably has a mantle of high-pressure ice, similar to that of Neptune, but with a thinner hydrogen-rich atmosphere and an ocean surface. Oceans of water are expected to exist on hycean worlds. However, the ocean might also be too hot to be habitable or to be liquid.

“Although this kind of planet does not exist in our solar system, sub-Neptunes are the most common type of planet known so far in the galaxy,” explained team member Subhajit Sarkar of Cardiff University. “We have obtained the most detailed spectrum of a habitable-zone sub-Neptune to date, and this allowed us to work out the molecules that exist in its atmosphere.”

Astronomy is very active in the area of characterizing the atmospheres of exoplanets like K2-18 b, or determining their gases and physical conditions. Nonetheless, these planets are surpassed — in a real sense — by the glare of their a lot bigger parent stars, which makes investigating exoplanet environments especially testing.

The group avoided this test by dissecting light from K2-18 b’s parent star as it went through the exoplanet’s climate. Because it is a transiting exoplanet, K2-18 b’s brightness will decrease as it approaches its host star. This is the way the exoplanet was first found in 2015 with NASA’s K2 mission. This indicates that before reaching Webb telescopes, a small amount of starlight will pass through the exoplanet’s atmosphere during transits. Astronomers can piece together the traces left by the passage of the starlight through the exoplanet’s atmosphere to identify the atmosphere’s gases.

“This result was only possible because of the extended wavelength range and unprecedented sensitivity of Webb, which enabled robust detection of spectral features with just two transits,” said Madhusudhan. “For comparison, one transit observation with Webb provided comparable precision to eight observations with Hubble conducted over a few years and in a relatively narrow wavelength range.”

“These results are the product of just two observations of K2-18 b, with many more on the way,” explained team member Savvas Constantinou of the University of Cambridge. “This means our work here is but an early demonstration of what Webb can observe in habitable-zone exoplanets.”

The group’s outcomes were acknowledged for distribution in The Astrophysical Diary Letters.

The group currently means to lead follow-up research with the telescope’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) spectrograph which they trust will additionally approve their discoveries and give new experiences into the ecological circumstances on K2-18 b.

“Our ultimate goal is the identification of life on a habitable exoplanet, which would transform our understanding of our place in the universe,” concluded Madhusudhan. “Our findings are a promising step towards a deeper understanding of Hycean worlds in this quest.”

The world’s best space science observatory is NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. It is settling secrets in our nearby planet group, looking past to far off universes around different stars, and testing the strange designs and beginnings of our universe and our place in it. The European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency are NASA’s partners in the international Webb program.