Webb Space Telescope captures dust storm on remote planet

Webb Space Telescope allows us to

Researchers working with data from James Webb Space Telescope Spotted silicate cloud features in a distant planet’s atmosphere.

Known as VHS 1256 b, the atmosphere of the “Tatooine-like world” is constantly rising, mixing and moving during its 22-hour day, NASA said.

As the atmosphere is constantly bringing in hotter material — with temperatures as high as 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit — and pushing cooler material down, the result is dramatic changes in brightness.

“The resulting changes in brightness are so dramatic that it is the most variable planetary object known to date,” NASA said in a statement.

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This illustration shows a visualization of swirling clouds identified by the James Webb Space Telescope in the atmosphere of exoplanet VHS 1256 b.  The planet is about 40 light-years away and orbits two stars locked in their tight rotation.  Its clouds of silicate dust are constantly rising, mixing and moving during its 22-hour day.

This illustration shows a visualization of swirling clouds identified by the James Webb Space Telescope in the atmosphere of exoplanet VHS 1256 b. The planet is about 40 light-years away and orbits two stars locked in their tight rotation. Its clouds of silicate dust are constantly rising, mixing and moving during its 22-hour day. (Credits: Illustration: NASA, ESA, CSA, Joseph Olmsted (STScI))

Larger silicate dust grains in the atmosphere may be tiny, very hot sand particles.

Moreover, scientists have also identified the largest number of molecules at once on a planet outside our solar system, detecting water, methane, and carbon monoxide.

VHS 1256 b is about 40 light-years away from Earth and has been orbiting two stars over a period of 10,000 years.

The exoplanet’s turbulent sky is due to two factors.

FILE - In this April 13, 2017, image provided by NASA, technicians lift the mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope using a crane at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

FILE – In this April 13, 2017, image provided by NASA, technicians lift the mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope using a crane at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. ((Laura Betz/NASA via AP, File))

It has a lower gravity compared to more massive brown dwarfs, which means that silicate clouds can appear and stay higher in the atmosphere. In addition, in astronomical terms, it is a minor planet. Only 150 million years have passed since its formation.

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Although all of the features the team observed have been spotted on other planets elsewhere in the Milky Way by other telescopes, other research teams have identified only one pattern at a time.

A research team led by Brittany Miles of the University of Arizona used two instruments known as spectrometers aboard the James Webb Space Telescope, one on the Near Infrared Spectrometer (NIRSpec) and the other on the Medium Infrared Instrument (MIRI) to observe a wide section.  From the near-to-mid infrared light emitted by the planet VHS 1256b.  They plotted the light on a spectrum, identifying the signatures of silicate clouds, water, methane, and carbon monoxide.  They also found evidence of carbon dioxide.

A research team led by Brittany Miles of the University of Arizona used two instruments known as spectrometers aboard the James Webb Space Telescope, one on the Near Infrared Spectrometer (NIRSpec) and the other on the Medium Infrared Instrument (MIRI) to observe a wide section. From the near-to-mid infrared light emitted by the planet VHS 1256b. They plotted the light on a spectrum, identifying the signatures of silicate clouds, water, methane, and carbon monoxide. They also found evidence of carbon dioxide. (Credits: Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, J. Olmsted (STScI); Science: Brittany Miles (University of Arizona), Sasha Hinkley (University of Exeter), Beth Biller (University of Edinburgh), Andrew Skemer (University of California) ) , Santa Cruz))

“No other telescope has identified this many features simultaneously for a single target,” research co-author Andrew Skemer of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said in a statement. “We see a lot of molecules in one spectrum of that detail web Dynamic cloud and weather systems on the planet. “

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The researchers reached these conclusions by analyzing data from Webb’s NIRSpec and MIRI instruments, with observations as part of the Webb Early Release Science program.

Their findings were published in a research paper in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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