James Webb Space Telescope Spots Dusty Clouds On Planet Orbiting Two Stars

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has achieved yet another milestone by identifying the highest number of molecules ever all at once on an exoplanet. JWST, the world’s most powerful space telescope, has observed dusty clouds in the atmosphere of an exoplanet that orbits two stars. 

All about the exoplanet where Webb has spotted dusty clouds

The planet has a 22-hour day, and its atmosphere is constantly rising, mixing and moving. The clouds have silicate dust and sand particles. 

Since the clouds keep rising, mixing and moving, the resulting brightness changes are extremely dramatic, making the exoplanet the most variable planetary-mass object known to date. 

The study describing the findings will be published in the The Astrophysical Journal Letters. A team of researchers, led by Brittany Miles of the University of Arizona, made extraordinarily clear detections of water, methane and carbon monoxide using the data provided by JWST, also called Webb.

The study also found evidence of carbon dioxide on the planet, called VHS 1256 b. 

VHS 1256 b is about 40 light years away from Earth, and orbits two stars over a 10,000-year period. 

In a NASA statement, Miles said VHS 1256 b is about four times farther from its stars than Pluto is from our Sun, making the exoplanet a great Target for Webb, because the planet’s light is not mixed with light from its stars. 

The temperatures higher up in the planet’s atmosphere are extremely high. At the upper regions of the atmosphere, the silicate clouds are churning, and the temperatures reach 830 degrees Celsius. 

Webb detected both larger and smaller silicate dust grains within those clouds. NASA has shown those dust grains on a spectrum. 

Beth Biller of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, one of the co-authors on the paper, said the finer silicate grains in the planet’s atmosphere may be more like tiny particles in smoke, and the larher particles might be more like very hot, very small sand particles.