James Webb Telescope will observe two early ‘super-Earths’

The mirror segments of the James Webb Space Telescope have been tuned and its scientific instruments are being calibrated. At the moment it is just weeks away from full operation. NASA plans to release the first observations this summer, after which Webb will begin in-depth scientific observations. Among the studies planned for the first year of the telescope, two exoplanets are classified as “super-Earths”: the lava covered 55 Cancri e and the atmospheric LHS 3844 b.

They are classified as super-earths because of their large and rocky composition. Scientists will train Webb’s high-precision spectrographs on these two planets to understand more about the geological diversity of planets across the galaxy, as well as to understand the evolution of rocky planets such as the one we live on.

55 Cancri e: Super-hot super-Earth

55 Cancri e is an exoplanet that turns less than 1.5 million kilometers from its star, which is 4 percent of the distance between Mercury and the Sun. This means that the planet completes a whole revolution around its star in less than 18 hours. In principle, a year on 55 Cancri is the equivalent of 18 Earth hours.

Such planets orbiting so close to their stars are believed to be tide closed; with one side facing the star at all times. This should mean that the warmest place on the planet should be the one that is constantly facing the star; and that the amount of heat that comes from the day should not change much over time.

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Interestingly, this does not seem to be the case with 55 Cancri e: observations of the planet made by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope suggest that the hottest region on the exoplanet of the day is deposited. It also shows that the total amount of heat detected differs from day to day.

Scientists have come up with several explanations for this: One is that the planet has a dynamic atmosphere that radiates heat. This atmosphere may be a thick atmosphere dominated by oxygen or nitrogen, according to scientists who will use Webb’s near-infrared camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) to measure the thermal emission spectrum of the day. to capture the planet. If the planet is to have an atmosphere, Webb must have the sensitivity and wavelength range to detect it.

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Another intriguing statement is that 55 Cancri e is not tide closed and that it may instead be like Mercury; rotate three times for every two orbits, giving the planet a day-night cycle. This may also explain why the warmest part of the planet has shifted; just like on earth, it can take time for a surface to heat up and the hottest time of the day would be in the afternoon and not right in the afternoon. If this is true, researchers plan to test the hypothesis by using NIRCam to measure the heat emitted from the illuminated side of 55 Cancri e during four different orbits.

LHS 3844 b: Literally cooler

Unlike 55 Cancri e, LHS 3844 b will offer a unique opportunity to analyze solid rock on an exoplanet surface. But just like the previous one, LHS 3844 b rotates extremely close to its star; completing a full-time job in 11 hours. But because its star is relatively small and cool, the surface of the exoplanet is not hot enough to melt the surface. Spitzer observations indicate that the planet is very unlikely to have a substantial atmosphere.

It is not possible to image the surface of LHS 3844 b directly with Webb, but it is possible to study the surface with spectroscopy due to the lack of an obscuring atmosphere. Just as our eyes can see the difference in color between rocks due to the visible light they reflect, there are similar differences in the infrared light that rocks emit.

Researchers will use Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) to capture the thermal emission spectrum of the day of LHS 3844 b to compare it with spectra of known rocks so that the composition can be determined. The spectrum could


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