Wednesday, May 29

James Webb Space Telescope finds comet water 2023

NASA announced on Monday that the James Webb Space Telescope has detected water surrounding a comet.

A comet named Read, which is located in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, was found to contain water vapor.

The findings, which were published in the journal Nature, could aid scientists in learning more about the origins of Earth’s abundant water.

Stefanie Milam, Webb’s deputy project scientist for planetary science and co-author of the study, stated, “Our water-drenched planet, teeming with life and unique in the universe as far as we know, is a bit of a mystery; we’re not sure how all this water got here.”

Understanding the history of water distribution in the solar system will assist us in determining whether or not other planetary systems are capable of harboring an Earth-like planet.

The findings suggest that water ice from the primordial solar system can be preserved in this region.

It was previously believed that only comets in the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud, beyond the orbit of Neptune, would retain ice due to their greater distance from the Sun.

NASA stated, “Scientists have long hypothesized that water ice could be preserved in the warmer asteroid belt, within Jupiter’s orbit, but definitive proof was lacking — until Webb.”

Also surprising to scientists was the absence of carbon dioxide in the comet.

Carbon dioxide comprises approximately 10% of the volatile material in a comet that is readily vaporized by the Sun’s radiation, according to Nasa.

Scientists believe that when Comet Read formed, it contained carbon dioxide but lost it due to the planet’s mild temperatures.

Carbon dioxide vaporizes more readily than water ice and could percolate out over billions of years, according to Michael Kelley, the main author of the study from the University of Maryland.

Scientists intend to investigate other comets in the main asteroid belt to determine how they compare to Comet Read.

The $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope was launched on Christmas Day, 2021, to aid in the study of the origins of the universe and Solar System.

Since then, it has captured stunning images of celestial phenomena, such as exploding stars and ancient galaxies.

On July 11 of last year, US President Joe Biden unveiled the first image from the telescope. It depicted the galaxy cluster Smacs 0723 4.6 billion years in the past.

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