NGC 5068, a mesmerizing celestial beauty, gracefully resides within the enchanting constellation of Virgo, holding Secrets from the Cosmos. Its celestial address places it at an astonishing distance of about 20 million light-years away, an awe-inspiring journey across the cosmic expanse to behold its splendor. This image of the galaxy’s center, intense star-forming regions is part of an astronomical treasure trove, a storehouse of studies of star formation in surrounding galaxies. This collection’s precious gems can be found here (IC 5332) and here (M74). These observations are especially important to astronomers for two reasons. One of the main reasons why star formation holds immense significance in the field of astronomy is because it intertwines with numerous captivating subjects, ranging from the intricate physics of the tenuous plasma that pervades the space between stars to the captivating story of how entire galaxies evolve. Astronomers expect to kick-start significant scientific advancements by monitoring the development of stars in neighboring galaxies using some of the initial data from Webb.

The second reason is that Webb’s findings build on previous research utilizing telescopes like the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories. Webb gathered a stunning assortment of visuals, capturing the essence of 19 star-forming galaxies nearby. These remarkable images were subsequently merged with the Hubble telescope’s extensive collection of 10,000-star clusters. Astronomers also incorporated the invaluable data from the Very Large Telescope’s (VLT) spectroscopic mapping of 20,000 star-forming emission nebulae to complement this cosmic ensemble. In addition to that, the team went above and beyond by diligently examining 12,000 enigmatic and densely packed molecular clouds that possess an intriguing darkness. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) meticulously found these enthralling formations, unveiling a hidden region within our cosmic environment, where Secrets from the Cosmos lie.

This meticulous observation adds another layer of depth to our understanding, allowing us to peer into the enigmatic nature of these mysterious clouds. The collaborative effort resulted in an awe-inspiring amalgamation of celestial imagery and knowledge. The sheer magnitude of these data reaches far and wide across the boundless electromagnetic spectrum, bestowing upon astronomers a truly extraordinary and singular moment in time. It presents an awe-inspiring chance to meticulously unravel the intricate threads that compose the captivating journey of star creation. This remarkable opportunity beckons us to delve deep into the cosmic realm, gathering the fragments of knowledge that bring us closer to comprehending the profound mysteries of celestial birth.

Webb is uniquely adapted to investigate the processes underlying star formation because of its capacity to see through the gas and dust that surrounds nascent stars. This treasure trove of data extends across the vast expanse of the electromagnetic spectrum, presenting astronomers with an extraordinary and irreplaceable chance to meticulously weave together the intricate tapestry of star formation. It is a rare and unparalleled opportunity, gifting us with the means to uncover and assemble the finest details that contribute to the grand spectacle of celestial birth. The infrared vision of two of Webb’s pieces of equipment, MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) and NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera), allowed astronomers to see right through the massive clouds of dust in NGC 5068 and catch the processes of star formation as they occurred. This image combines the capabilities of these two instruments, providing a unique view of NGC 5068’s composition.

spiral galaxy NGC 5068
In this image of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 5068, from the James Webb Space Telescope’s MIRI instrument, the dusty structure of the spiral galaxy and glowing bubbles of gas containing newly-formed star clusters are particularly prominent. Three asteroid trails intrude into this image, represented as tiny blue-green-red dots. Asteroids appear in astronomical images such as these because they are much closer to the telescope than the distant target. As Webb captures several images of the astronomical object, the asteroid moves, so it shows up in a slightly different place in each frame. They are a little more noticeable in images such as this one from MIRI, because many stars are not as bright in mid-infrared wavelengths as they are in near-infrared or visible light, so asteroids are easier to see next to the stars. One trail lies just below the galaxy’s bar, and two more in the bottom-left corner.
Credits: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST Team


Webb Space Telescope Unveils Secrets from the Cosmos
This view of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 5068, from the James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam instrument, is studded by the galaxy’s massive population of stars, most dense along its bright central bar, along with burning red clouds of gas illuminated by young stars within. This near-infrared image of the galaxy is filled by the enormous gathering of older stars which make up the core of NGC 5068. The keen vision of NIRCam allows astronomers to peer through the galaxy’s gas and dust to closely examine its stars. Dense and bright clouds of dust lie along the path of the spiral arms: These are H II regions, collections of hydrogen gas where new stars are forming. The young, energetic stars ionize the hydrogen around them, creating this glow represented in red.
Credits: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST Team

There’s a fascinating exoplanet 400 light-years away that’s so intriguing that astronomers have been researching it since its discovery in 2009. WASP-18 b takes only 23 hours to complete one orbit around its star (which is slightly larger than our Sun). Nothing like it exists in our solar system. WASP-18 b, an extrasolar planet ten times the mass of Jupiter, has been detected by NASA’s Hubble, Chandra, TESS, and Spitzer satellite telescopes as well as ground-based observatories. Astronomers are already looking via NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, and the ”firsts” keep arriving.

The discovery: Scientists discovered water vapor in extrasolar planet’s (WASP-18 b) atmosphere and created a temperature map of the planet as it disappeared behind and resurfaced from its star. This is referred to as a secondary eclipse. Scientists can read the combined light from the star and the planet, then refine the measurements from the star alone when the planet travels behind it.

The same side of WASP-18 b, known as the dayside, always faces the star, just as the same side of the Moon always faces Earth. The temperature, or brightness, map depicts a large temperature shift – up to 1,000 degrees – from the warmest point facing the star to the terminator, where the day and night sides of the tidally-locked planet meet in perpetual twilight.

‘‘JWST is giving us the sensitivity to make much more detailed maps of extrasolar planets like WASP-18 b than ever before. This is the first time a planet has been mapped with JWST, and it’s really exciting to see that some of what our models predicted, such as a sharp drop in temperature away from the point on the planet directly facing the star, is actually seen in the data!’’ said Megan Mansfield, a Sagan Fellow at the University of Arizona, and one of the authors of the paper describing the results.

Temperature gradients were mapped over the planet’s dayside by the researchers. Given how much cooler the globe is at the terminator, something is most certainly preventing winds from efficiently dispersing heat to the night side. But what is influencing the winds remains a mystery.

‘‘The brightness map of WASP-18 b shows a lack of east-west winds that is best matched by models with atmospheric drag. One possible explanation is that this planet has a strong magnetic field, which would be an exciting discovery!’’ said co-author Ryan Challener, of the University of Michigan.

According to one interpretation of the eclipse map, magnetic factors cause winds to blow from the planet’s equator up over the North pole and down over the South pole, rather than east-west as we would expect.

Temperature fluctuations were measured at various elevations of the gas giant planet’s atmospheric layers. Temperatures rose with altitude and varied by hundreds of degrees.

Despite tremendous temperatures of over 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,700 degrees Celsius), the spectrum of the planet’s atmosphere indicates many small but accurately measured water structures. It’s so hot that most water molecules would be ripped apart, thus recognizing its presence speaks to Webb’s amazing sensitivity to detect leftover water. The levels of water vapor detected in the atmosphere of WASP-18 b show that it exists at varied heights.

WASP-18 b Spectrum
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech (R. Hurt/IPAC)

‘‘It was a great feeling to look at WASP-18 b’s JWST spectrum for the first time and see the subtle but precisely measured signature of water,’’ said Louis-Philippe Coulombe, a graduate student at the University of Montreal and lead author of the WASP-18 b paper. ‘‘Using such measurements, we will be able to detect such molecules for a wide range of planets in the years to come!’’

Extrasolar planet WASP-18 b was observed for around six hours by researchers using one of Webb’s instruments, the Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS), which was donated by the Canadian Space Agency.

‘‘Because the water features in this spectrum are so subtle, they were difficult to identify in previous observations. That made it really exciting to finally see water features with these JWST observations,’’ said Anjali Piette, a postdoctoral fellow at the Carnegie Institution for Science and one of the authors of the new research.

The discoverers are as follows: Through the Transiting Exoplanet Community Early Release Science Program, which is coordinated by Natalie Batalha, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who helped coordinate the new research, more than 100 scientists from across the world are working on early science from Webb. Young scientists like Coulombe, Challener, Piette, and Mansfield are doing a lot of innovative work.

WASP-18 b’s proximity to its star and us, as well as its massive mass, contributed to its appeal to scientists. WASP-18 b is one of the largest worlds whose atmospheres we can study. We’d like to know how such planets arise and end up where they are. This, too, has some early Webb responses.

‘‘By analyzing WASP-18b’s spectrum, we not only learn about the various molecules that can be found in its atmosphere but also about the way it formed. We find from our observations that WASP-18 b’s composition is very similar to that of its star, meaning it most likely formed from the leftover gas that was present just after the star was born,’’ Coulombe said. ‘‘Those results are very valuable to get a clear picture of how strange planets like WASP-18 b, which have no counterpart in our solar system, come to exist.’’

WASP-18_b Eclipse
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech (R. Hurt/IPAC)

Astounding revelations have emerged as researchers, harnessing the remarkable capabilities of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, uncovered a captivating phenomenon: a captivating water vapor plume emanating from Saturn’s enchanting moon, Enceladus. This remarkable plume stretches a staggering distance of over 6,000 miles, equivalent to the approximate span between the vibrant cities of Los Angeles, California, and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Webb is providing scientists with a first-ever direct view of how this water emission feeds the water supply for the entire Saturnian system and its rings. In a monumental stride for scientific discovery, never before have we witnessed such a captivating spectacle—a water emission of this magnitude stretching across an expansive distance.

Enceladus, a captivating oceanic world measuring a mere 313 miles in diameter and roughly 4% of Earth’s size, stands as an exceptionally alluring scientific pursuit within our solar system when it comes to the quest for alien life.

A vast pool of salty water sits between the moon’s rocky core and frozen outer surface. Informally known as “tiger stripes,” geyser-like volcanoes spray jets of ice particles, water vapor, and organic compounds out of the moon’s surface.

Observatories had previously measured moon jets hundreds of kilometers away, but Webb’s extraordinary sensitivity exposes a new story.

Saturn’s moon Enceladus
In this image, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope shows a water vapor plume jetting from the southern pole of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, extending out 20 times the size of the moon itself. The inset, an image from the Cassini orbiter, emphasizes how small Enceladus appears in the Webb image compared to the water plume.
Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, and G. Villanueva (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center). Image Processing: A. Pagan (STScI).

“When I was looking at the data, at first, I was thinking I had to be wrong. It was just so shocking to detect a water plume more than 20 times the size of the moon,” said lead author Geronimo Villanueva of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The water plume extends far beyond its release region at the southern pole.”

The researchers were interested in more than just the plume’s length. It is also very astonishing how quickly the water vapor is erupting—about 79 gallons per second. At this pace, we’d have an Olympic-sized swimming pool filled in no time. On our beloved Earth, achieving the same feat with a garden hose would take over two weeks.

Throughout its decade-long exploration of the Saturnian system, the Cassini orbiter captured the first images of Enceladus’s plumes and even flew through them to collect samples of their constituent materials. While Cassini’s position within the Saturnian system gave it invaluable insights into this far-off moon, Webb’s singular view from the Sun-Earth Lagrange Point 2 and the astounding sensitivity of its Integral Field Unit aboard the NIRSpec (Near-Infrared Spectrograph) Instrument is providing new context.

“The orbit of Enceladus around Saturn is relatively quick, just 33 hours. As it whips around Saturn, the moon and its jets are basically spitting off water, leaving a halo, almost like a donut, in its wake,” said Villanueva. “In the Webb observations, not only was the plume huge, but there was just water absolutely everywhere.”

The dense “E-ring,” Saturn’s outermost and broadest ring, is present with the fuzzy torus of water that was observed to be “everywhere.”

The Webb observations clearly show how the torus is fueled by the moon’s water vapor plumes. According to an analysis of the Webb data, only around 30% of the water in this torus escapes, supplying the remaining 70% of the water in the Saturnian system.

Webb will be the main observatory for the ocean moon Enceladus in the coming years, and findings from Webb will help guide future solar system satellite missions that will try to investigate the depth of the underlying ocean, the thickness of the ice crust, and other things.

Water Vapor Plume
In this image, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s instruments are revealing details into how one of Saturn’s moon’s feeds a water supply to the entire system of the ringed planet. New images from Webb’s NIRSpec (Near-Infrared Spectrograph) have revealed a water vapor plume jetting from the southern pole of Enceladus, extending out more than 20 times the size of the moon itself. The Integral Field Unit (IFU) aboard NIRSpec also provided insights into how the water from Enceladus feeds the rest of its surrounding environment.
Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Leah Hustak (STScI)

“Right now, Webb provides a unique way to directly measure how water evolves and changes over time across Enceladus’ immense plume, and as we see here, we will even make new discoveries and learn more about the composition of the underlying ocean,” added co-author Stefanie Milam at NASA Goddard. “Because of Webb’s wavelength coverage and sensitivity, and what we’ve learned from previous missions, we have an entire new window of opportunity in front of us.”

Guaranteed Time Observation (GTO) program 1250 was used to conclude Webb’s observations of Enceladus. This program’s first objective is to showcase Webb’s expertise in a certain scientific field and lay the groundwork for further research.

“This program was essentially a proof of concept after many years of developing the observatory, and it’s just thrilling that all this science has already come out of quite a short amount of observation time,” said Heidi Hammel of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Webb interdisciplinary scientist and leader of the GTO program.

Space Telescope Science Institute’s Telescope Allocation Committee outlines the target selection procedure for the next cycle of Webb observations, sparking celebration among astronomers worldwide.

What is the purpose of the peer-review process?

“On May 10, the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s science operations center, announced the scientific program for Cycle 2, the second year of regular operations.” This statement marked the end of a peer-review process to pick the most scientifically compelling programs, which began on January 27 with the submission of observation and archival proposals.

What is the purpose of Archival projects?

“For each year of regular operations, STScI intends to issue a Call for General Observer and Archival Proposals from the international astronomical community in order to solicit ideas for new observations and archival studies to be carried out in the following year.” Archival projects seek funding to study previously collected data, establish theoretical models to understand data, and/or provide scientific tools to aid in data analysis. More than 5,450 scientists from 52 nations, including the United States, ESA (European Space Agency) member states, and Canada, submitted a record-breaking 1,600 ideas for Cycle 2. The proposals ranged from solar system bodies, exoplanets, supernova remnants, and merging neutron stars to neighboring and distant galaxies, supermassive black holes at galaxies’ centers, and the large-scale structure of the cosmos. The submitted applications requested more than 35,000 hours of telescope time, greatly exceeding the 5,000 hours available for allocation.

How does the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) select the programs to be carried out by the Telescope Allocation Committee (TAC)?

“STScI recruits hundreds of members of the international astronomical community to serve on the Telescope Allocation Committee (TAC) to select the programs that will be carried out.” Each reviewer is assigned to a relevant panel that corresponds to their scientific knowledge. Dual-Anonymous Peer Review (DAPR) is a peer-review procedure in which the proposers do not know who is assessing the proposals and the reviewers do not know who prepared the proposals. STScI implemented DAPR in 2016 to support the Hubble Space Telescope Cycle 26 TAC and discovered that it reduced a previously observed discrepancy in the proposal selection rate for male and female investigators and encouraged many more students to submit for telescope time.

How does the STScI JWST Science Policies Group handle the sorting of proposals?

“After proposals are submitted, the STScI JWST Science Policies Group sorts them by type and/or size, as well as a scientific category.” External panelists judge very small proposals asynchronously, whereas larger programs are reviewed by discussion panels. Each panel is allotted telescope time to which it can recommend observation programs.

What criteria are used by reviewers to grade each proposal?

“Reviewers are asked to grade each proposal using three criteria:

  1.  Impact within the subfield,
  2. Impact outside the subfield
  3. Suitability for the observatory

” Proposals for external panels are ranked based on provided grades. Because there is not enough time to discuss all of the submitted proposals on discussion panels, proposals are first triaged using submitted grades. The discussion panelists analyze the strengths and shortcomings of all proposals that pass triage and regrade and re-rank the proposals at the TAC conference. The ideas with the highest rankings are suggested for the allocation of telescope time and/or money. The panel chairs also receive and incorporate expert opinions from the community and their discussion panels for the Large, Treasury, and Legacy Archive proposals. Furthermore, reviewers provide input to proposers outlining perceived strengths and weaknesses.

What is the significance of the observations becoming publicly available in the archive?

“The STScI director is the allocating official for this mission.” As a result, the TAC’s recommendations are all advisory to the director. STScI notifies proposers of the outcome of their applications and begins implementation of the awarded observations after the director authorizes the programs. The newly announced Cycle 2 program comprises a lot of fascinating and ground-breaking science. By reading the abstracts of the selected projects, you can learn more about the breadth of research fields and issues to be answered with Webb’s observations. Eventually, all of the observations in the approved programs will be publicly available in the archive, allowing for additional fresh discoveries that the original proposers may not have anticipated.”

Another long-awaited scientific breakthrough has been made possible by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, this time for solar system scientists investigating the origins of Earth’s copious water. Astronomers have detected gas – especially water vapor – near a comet in the main asteroid belt for the first time using Webb’s NIRSpec (Near-Infrared Spectrograph), indicating that water ice from the early solar system can be retained in that region. The effective identification of water, however, introduces a fresh puzzle: unlike other comets, Comet 238P/Read did not emit measurable carbon dioxide.

graphic presentation of spectral data highlights
Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and J. Olmsted (STScI)
Credits: NASA, ESA

“Our water-soaked world, teeming with life and unique in the universe as far as we know, is something of a mystery – we’re not sure how all this water got here,” said Stefanie Milam, Webb deputy project scientist for planetary science and co-author on the research that reported the discovery. “Understanding the history of water distribution in the solar system will help us understand other planetary systems and whether they might be on their way to hosting an Earth-like planet,” she adds.

Comet Read is a main belt comet, which is an object that lives in the main asteroid belt but has a halo, or coma, and tail like a comet. Comet Read was one of the first three comets used to establish the category of main belt comets, which is a relatively new classification. Previously, comets were thought to live in the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud, beyond Neptune’s orbit, where their ice might be kept away from the Sun. Comets get their unique coma and flowing tail from frozen ice that vaporizes as they approach the Sun, which distinguishes them from asteroids. Scientists have long suspected that water ice could be retained in the warmer asteroid belt, within Jupiter’s orbit.

But, until Webb, definitive proof remained elusive.

“In the past, we’ve seen objects in the main belt with all the characteristics of comets, but only with this precise spectral data from Webb can we say yes, it’s definitely water ice that’s creating that effect,” said University of Maryland astronomer Michael Kelley, the study’s lead author.

“With Webb’s observations of Comet Read, we can now demonstrate that water ice from the early solar system can be preserved in the asteroid belt,” Kelley explained.

The absence of carbon dioxide came as a bigger surprise. Carbon dioxide typically accounts for around 10% of the volatile material in a comet that can be easily evaporated by the Sun’s heat. The scientists propose two possibilities for the lack of carbon dioxide. Comet Read may have possessed carbon dioxide when it formed, but it has since lost it due to heated temperatures.

“Being in the asteroid belt for a long time could do it – carbon dioxide vaporizes more easily than water ice, and it could percolate out over billions of years,” Kelley speculated. He also speculated that Comet Read could have formed in a particularly heated region of the solar system where no carbon dioxide was accessible.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, M. Kelley (University of Maryland). Image processing: H. Hsieh (Planetary Science Institute), A. Pagan (STScI)

According to scientist Heidi Hammel of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), lead for Webb’s Guaranteed Time Observations for Solar System Objects and co-author of the study, the next step is to expand the research beyond Comet Read to see how other main belt comets compare. “These asteroid belt objects are small and faint, but thanks to Webb, we can finally see what’s going on with them and draw some conclusions.” Do other main belt comets lack carbon dioxide as well? “It will be exciting to find out in either case,” Hammel remarked.

Milam, a co-author, envisions bringing the research even closer to home. “Now that Webb has proved that water has been retained as close to the asteroid belt as possible, It would be fascinating to follow up on this discovery with a sample collecting mission to see what else the main belt comets have to teach us.”

NASA’s Webb telescope has captured the most detailed images yet of a mysterious planet!

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has discovered a planet far away from our solar system. This planet is different from any other planet we know because it reflects a lot of light and has a hot and humid atmosphere. This is the best view we have of a mysterious world known as a “mini-Neptune”. Previous observations couldn’t reveal much about it.

 detailed images of mysterious planet

Does planet GJ 1214 b contain water?

The planet GJ 1214 b is too hot to have liquid water oceans, but it could still have water in the form of vapor in its atmosphere.

Eliza Kempton:

Eliza Kempton, a researcher at the University of Maryland, stated that the planet is covered by a layer of haze or clouds. This information was published in a new paper in the journal Nature. We were unaware of the atmosphere until we made this observation. She said that the planet might have been a “water world” if it had a lot of water and ice when it was formed.

What have researchers observed so far about the planer?

The research team tried a new approach to break through the thick barrier. They not only observed the host star’s light that passed through the planet’s atmosphere but also followed GJ 1214 b for almost its entire orbit around the star.

JWST’s powerful MIRI:

This discovery shows how powerful Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) is. It can see light wavelengths that are not visible to the human eye. The research team used MIRI to make a “heat map” of the planet while it was orbiting the star. The heat map showed us the planet’s day and night sides and gave us information about what its atmosphere is made of. This happened right before the planet went behind the star and then came out on the other side.

Eliza Kempton:

Kempton said that being able to complete a full orbit was very important to comprehend how the planet spreads heat from the sunny side to the dark side. Day and night are very different from each other. The night side is colder than the day side.” The temperatures changed from 535 to 326 degrees Fahrenheit (279 to 165 degrees Celsius).

What is the significance of a heavy molecule atmosphere on a planet like GJ 1214 b?

Such a big shift is only possible in an atmosphere made up of heavier molecules, such as water or methane, which appear similar when observed by MIRI. According to Kempton, the atmosphere of GJ 1214 b is not made up mostly of lighter hydrogen molecules. This clue could be important in understanding the planet’s history and how it was formed, including the possibility of it having a watery beginning.

She said that this atmosphere is not from the beginning of time. “It does not reflect the composition of the host star it formed around. Instead, it either lost a lot of hydrogen, if it started with a hydrogen-rich atmosphere, or it was formed from heavier elements, to begin with – more icy, water-rich material.”

Cooler Than Expected:

And while the planet is hot by human standards, it is much cooler than expected, Kempton noted. The planet has a shiny atmosphere that surprised researchers. It reflects a lot of light from its parent star instead of absorbing it and getting hotter.

What are Mini-Neptunes or sub-Neptunes?

New observations may help us learn more about a type of planet that we don’t know much about yet. Mini-Neptunes – or sub-Neptunes as they’re called in the paper – are the most common type of planet in the galaxy, but mysterious to us because they don’t occur in our solar system. The measurements taken indicate that the planet is quite similar to a smaller version of Neptune. Beyond that, little is known.

Rob Zellem:

“For the last almost decade, the only thing we really knew about this planet was that the atmosphere was cloudy or hazy,” said Rob Zellem, an exoplanet researcher who works with co-author and fellow exoplanet researcher Tiffany Kataria at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “This paper has really cool implications for additional detailed climate interpretations – to look at the detailed physics happening inside this planet’s atmosphere.”

What is a red dwarf and how long it takes to complete its orbit?

The new work suggests the planet might have formed farther from its star, a type known as a red dwarf, then spiraled gradually inward to its present, close orbit. The planet’s year – one orbit around the star – takes only 1.6 Earth days.

Kempton explained that if a planet has a lot of water, it probably formed further away from its star.

How can studying mini-Neptunes help us understand the formation of planets in general?

We need more information to learn about GJ 1214 b and how other mini-Neptune planets formed. This planet might have a lot of water in its atmosphere, but it could also have a lot of methane. To better understand how mini-Neptunes are formed, we need to observe more of them closely.

“By observing a whole population of objects like this, hopefully, we can build up a consistent story,” Kempton said.

The galactic merger of Arp 220, has recently been featured in a stunning image taken by NASA’s forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope. Arp 220 is an ultra-luminous infrared galaxy. It emits over a trillion suns’ worth of luminosity. This galaxy is a remarkable example of intense star formation. The collision of two spiral galaxies triggered this phenomenon. The collision began about 700 million years ago. It led to the formation of around 200 massive star clusters. The Webb telescope has released a new image of Arp 220. It shows faint tidal tails and organic material in streams and filaments. The image also reveals evidence of the ongoing galactic dance.

So let’s start by,

What is Arp 220?

Arp 220 is a 250 million light-years from Earth, in the constellation Serpens, is the ultra-luminous infrared galaxy (ULIRG). It is a spectacular merging pair of spiral galaxies that began colliding around 700 million years ago. As a result of this collision, approximately 200 large star clusters have formed and are located within a congested, dusty area spanning 5,000 light-years. Arp 220 shines in the light of more than a trillion suns and is the nearest ULIRG to us and the brightest of the three galactic mergers closest to Earth. The entire Milky Way galaxy’s worth of gas is visible in this minuscule area.

A huge explosion of star creation resulted from the collision of two spiral galaxies some 700 million years ago. As a result, a densely packed, dusty region formed, roughly 200 large star clusters spanning approximately 5,000 light-years. Furthermore, the collision between these two spiral galaxies created around 200 huge star clusters, starting some 700 million years ago. Additionally, the region measured 5,000 light-years across and was crowded and dusty. Notably, this small area contains as much gas as the entire Milky Way galaxy does.

The galaxy has been studied previously by radio telescopes, which revealed about 100 supernova remnants, and by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, which uncovered the cores of the parent galaxies. Webb recently captured Arp 220 with its Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). The image reveals the stunning beauty of the galactic merger in infrared light. Moreover, the faint tidal tails and organic material in streams and filaments across Arp 220.

One more thing that might pop up in your head,

Has Arp 220 Been Captured Before? A Look at Past Observations of this Remarkable Object

The latest photo from the James Webb Space Telescope offers a new and intriguing view of Arp 220. This object has already been studied extensively in the past, but has remained a captivating subject for astronomers for many years. Arp 220 is one of the nearest and brightest examples of a galaxy experiencing a significant burst of star formation.

It is an extremely bright infrared galaxy that may be found around 250 million light-years away in the Serpens constellation. As a result, this object has attracted the attention of numerous telescopes over the years to solve its secrets.

The Hubble Space Telescope made a significant observation of Arp 220.  This exposed an intricate web of filaments and bubbles in the galaxy’s surrounding gas and dust. This image also showed evidence of two merging galaxies at the center of Arp 220. This was later confirmed by subsequent observations.

Despite these earlier observations, the recent image captured by the James Webb Space Telescope provides a much clearer view of Arp 220 and reveals details that were previously unseen.

Now let’s discuss the,

Webb’s imaging of Arp 220:

NASA’s newest and most potent space telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, beautifully depicted the Arp 220 cosmic collision between two spiral galaxies in a photograph. This stunning collision ignited a burst of star formation, resulting in a dazzling display of over a trillion suns shining in infrared light.

The Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) and Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) on the Webb telescope caught this galaxy merger in unparalleled detail. A rotating ring of star formation surrounds each of the galactic cores. Which is emitting brilliant infrared light and produces a striking spiked starburst characteristic. The image shows blue tidal tails drawn off by gravity, revealing the galactic dance. Arp 220 displays streams and filaments of reddish-orange colored organic material.

Lastly, let’s conclude this with,


The James Webb Space Telescope’s amazing image gives us a peek at the breathtaking and awe-inspiring magnificence of our cosmos. It displays the impressive capabilities of this amazing observatory and what we might anticipate learning in the upcoming years. We may be certain that we will explore and uncover the beauty of space as long as we have space technology like JSWT.


Published by: Sky Headlines

Astronomers have captured an image of Cassiopeia A, the remaining debris of a supernova explosion of a colossal star in our Milky Way, through the James Webb Space Telescope. The image exhibits vibrant hues and intricate formations, providing an opportunity for astrophysical investigations to understand the star’s demise. Moreover, by studying the composition of the dust in Cas A, researchers aim to better comprehend the origins of planetary components and human existence, shedding light on the source of cosmic dust in the early universe. As supernovae distribute essential elements throughout interstellar space, they are vital for the formation of new stars and planets and the existence of life in the universe.

The picture exhibits striking hues and elaborate formations that pique curiosity for a closer look. Additionally, Cassiopeia A represents the most youthful remaining debris of a colossal star explosion within our Milky Way. This presents a chance for astronomers to conduct astrophysical investigations and comprehend the star’s demise.

[bafg id=”3072″]

This new image uses data from Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) to reveal Cas A in a new light.
Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, D. D. Milisavljevic (Purdue), T. Temim (Princeton), I. De Looze (Ghent University). Image Processing: J. DePasquale (STScI).

First, we should know,

What is Cassiopeia A?

Cassiopeia A is a typical supernova remnant that has been extensively researched by numerous ground-based and space-based observatories. Additionally, by integrating observations from various wavelengths, researchers can gain a more complete comprehension of the remnant.

According to Danny Milisavljevic, who is the principal investigator of the Webb program that captured these observations, Cas A provides us with the most promising chance to examine the remains of a supernova and conduct a type of post-mortem analysis to determine the type of star that existed before the explosion and how it occurred. Danny Milisavljevic is affiliated with Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

The vibrant hues displayed in the recently captured image of Cassiopeia A are a result of translating infrared light into visible wavelengths. Consequently, this image is a treasure trove of scientific knowledge that researchers are only just beginning to uncover. Moreover, the outer region of the bubble exhibits striking orange and red curtains of matter, which stem from warm dust emissions. Specifically, this area marks where the material ejected from the star explosion collides with the gas and dust surrounding it.

Inside the external covering are speckled threads of vivid pink adorned with clusters and lumps. This indicates the substance that originates from the star and radiates due to a combination of different dense elements, such as oxygen, argon, and neon, along with dust discharge. The materials from the star can also be perceived as dimmer strands in the vicinity of the hollow interior.

Lastly, let’s find out,

Origin of Cosmic Dust through Cas A Study:

One of the potential scientific inquiries that Cassiopeia A could provide insight into is the source of cosmic dust. Scientific observations have revealed that even newly formed galaxies in the early universe contain significant amounts of dust. Therefore, considering supernovae is necessary to easily explain the origins of this dust, as they emit substantial amounts of heavy elements into the cosmos, which form the basis of dust.

Danny Milisavljevic is enthusiastic about the scientific potential of the data set captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. The data set is of the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A. According to him, studying the process of exploding stars and the remnants they leave behind can help us better understand the origins of the universe. It can also help us understand the elements that make up our planet and life. Consequently, he intends to spend the rest of his career working to understand the information contained in the data set.

The amount of dust detected in early galaxies through observations of supernovae remains inconclusively explained. Therefore, astronomers are using the Webb telescope to study Cas A to comprehend its dust composition better. This information can potentially enhance our understanding of the origin of planetary components and human existence.

The formation of Cassiopeia A through a supernova event is of great importance for the existence of life in our universe. This is because such explosions are responsible for distributing essential elements, including calcium and iron, which are vital building blocks for life, throughout the vast expanse of interstellar space. New stars and planets form in this way, giving rise to future generations of life.

Published by: Sky Headlines

The universe is a vast and mysterious place, filled with secrets that have puzzled humanity for centuries. For many years, telescopes have been our eyes into the cosmos, allowing us to uncover some of its greatest mysteries. NASA James Webb Space Telescope is a marvel of engineering and a key to unlocking the mysteries of the cosmos. This great time machine has allowed us to look back 13.5 billion years to the beginning of time itself. In just a few months, NASA’s JSWT has shed light on its deepest mysteries

But what exactly makes the JWST so special, and what has it already achieved? We will be discussing all the achievements of JWST, but first, we would like to give a quick flashback about JWST. Let’s start with.

Quick facts:

JSWT’s state-of-the-art design and cutting-edge capabilities have revolutionized our understanding of the universe like never before. Here are some quick facts about the Webb telescope that you might find interesting:

  • The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was originally known as the Next Generation Space Telescope and was renamed in 2002 to honor James E. Webb, who served as the highest-ranking official for NASA from 1961 to 1968. Webb is credited with transforming NASA from a disconnected organization into a highly coordinated machine. However, the decision to name the JWST after him was controversial due to his alleged role in firing employees suspected of homosexuality.
  • NASA launched the Webb telescope on December 25, 2021. The launch took place at 12:20 UTC and the telescope was aboard an Ariane 5 ECA (VA256) rocket. The rocket was launched from the Centre Spatial Guyanais, ELA-3.
  • The observatory’s primary mission is to study the universe’s first galaxies, stars, and planets and their formation.
  • Experts estimate that constructing the telescope will cost around US$10 billion. This makes one of the most expensive space missions ever undertaken.
  • They used 18 hexagonal segments to make the Webb mirror, and they applied a thin layer of gold that is only 100 nanometers thick to each segment.
  • The mirror uses a little more than 48 grams of gold in total. People use gold to coat mirrors because it excellently reflects infrared light. The mirror uses a total mass of gold equivalent to that of a golf ball, and the thin layer of gold filling a volume the size of a marble.
  • Webb can downlink a massive amount of recorded science data every day. It can transfer at least 57.2 gigabytes of data per day, and the maximum data rate is 28 megabits per second. This is a significant improvement compared to the Hubble Space Telescope, which can only transmit 120 megabytes of data per day.
  • An onboard solar array powers Webb, providing 2,000 watts of electrical power for the life of the mission.
    It also has a propulsion system that helps to maintain the observatory’s orbit and attitude. The propellant onboard is enough for at least 10 years of science operations.
  • The James Webb telescope has four scientific instruments that use infrared detectors to capture light from distant astronomical sources. The Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), the Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec), the Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS), and the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) are the instruments at play. Designers create each instrument to perform specific functions and give them unique capabilities.
  • The Webb telescope has a five- to 10-year mission lifetime.

Now, let’s dig into the achievements so far JWST has made. This is how we have elaborated on JWST’s achievements:

What are the achievements of the James Webb Space Telescope?

The James Webb Telescope has a range of scientific objectives, including observing the distant universe to study the formation of the first galaxies. The telescope’s ability to collect light that has taken billions of years to travel across the cosmos allows astronomers to see the objects as they were billions of years ago. The JWST has already captured a ‘deep field’ image centered around the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, which is 4.6 billion light-years away. 

Space Exploration
Stephan’s Quintet is a laboratory for studying gravitational interactions between galaxies. This image from NIRCam and MIRI contains more than 150 million pixels and is constructed from 1,000 separate image files © NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

The gravitational field of the galaxy cluster has distorted these galaxies, as shown in the image. It provides new methods to measure galaxy mass and study the properties of dust in intervening galaxies. The James Webb Telescope can observe galaxies in the infrared. This allows astronomers to compare observations made in visible light by other telescopes. And study the evolution of galaxies over cosmic time. The JWST has also studied Stephan’s Quintet and M74. These are a group of interacting galaxies and a spiral galaxy, respectively. The telescope has revealed previously unseen details about these galaxies.  The telescope will collaborate with other observatories to study celestial objects and further our understanding of the universe. Infrared astronomy is especially useful for studying star formation. This is because longer wavelengths can penetrate the clouds of dust and gas that block visual light.

The James Webb Telescope has made several achievements in the field of exoplanet research. JWST can’t provide detailed images of planets outside our solar system. However, it did capture a direct image of an exoplanet: HIP 65426 b. This planet is between six to twelve times the mass of Jupiter. JWST used coronagraphs on its NIRCam and MIRI instruments to observe it. Also, JWST can analyze the light it receives to determine the chemical makeup of celestial objects.

Galaxy’s shape
At mid-infrared wavelengths, as seen by MIRI, the traditional shape of the galaxies disappears. This is because MIRI is not sensitive to starlight, which we traditionally use to define a galaxy’s shape © NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

Scientists used the NIRISS instrument of the JWST to study the exoplanet WASP-96 b and detected the presence of water vapor in its atmosphere. Furthermore, the James Webb Telescope has also targeted planets within our own Solar System, including Jupiter and Neptune. JWST has been successful in capturing different wavelengths from the NIRCam instrument to create an image of Jupiter, where brightness represented altitude in the Jovian atmosphere. The JWST’s ability to observe planetary systems provides opportunities to study smaller planets and cooler planets more similar to Earth, and giant planets in much more detail than previously available.

Now let’s conclude this discussion:

On the whole:

The James Webb Space Telescope is a remarkable achievement in human ingenuity and technology. The telescope has already achieved remarkable milestones. One of which is taking us back 13.5 billion years to the birth of the universe. Moreover, observing the distant universe to study the formation of the first galaxies. The James Webb Telescope has a minimum mission lifetime. However, it has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the universe in unimaginable ways. It will undoubtedly play a crucial role in uncovering the secrets of the cosmos as we continue to explore the vastness of space. Its discoveries will inspire future generations to keep looking up and push the boundaries of science and technology.

Published by: Sky Headlines

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has enabled an international team of researchers to determine the temperature of TRAPPIST-1 b, a rocky exoplanet. The measurement of temperature relies on the planet’s emission of thermal energy. It is in the form of infrared light that the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) of the Webb telescope detected de. The team’s findings reveal that TRAPPIST-1 b has a dayside temperature of around 500 kelvins (roughly 450 degrees Fahrenheit). It suggests that it lacks a substantial atmosphere. This groundbreaking discovery represents the first detection of light emitted by an exoplanet as small and cool as those found in our solar system. An important milestone is determining the potential of planets orbiting small active stars. Like TRAPPIST-1, to maintain the necessary atmospheres to sustain life. Furthermore, this discovery highlights the potential of Webb’s MIRI to characterize temperate, Earth-sized exoplanets.

Astrophysicist Thomas Greene is the lead author of the study. At NASA’s Ames Research Center, he says, “These observations take advantage of Webb’s mid-infrared capability,”. Moreover, he said: “No previous telescopes have had the sensitivity to measure such dim mid-infrared light.”

TRAPPIST-1 b's temperature
Credits: Illustration: NASA, ESA, CSA, J. Olmsted (STScI); Science: Thomas Greene (NASA Ames), Taylor Bell (BAERI), Elsa Ducrot (CEA), Pierre-Olivier Lagage (CEA)

Before we go further, let’s discuss,

Rocky Planets Orbiting Ultracool Red Dwarfs:

In early 2017,  astronomers reported the discovery of seven rocky planets orbiting an ultracool red dwarf star located 40 light-years from Earth. These planets are noteworthy because their size and mass are similar to our solar system’s inner, rocky planets. Even though they all orbit much closer to their star than any of our planets orbit the Sun, they receive comparable amounts of energy from their small star. Despite being outside the habitable zone of the TRAPPIST-1 system, TRAPPIST-1 b receives a significantly high amount of energy from its star. It is due to its close orbital distance. Observations of this planet can provide valuable insights into the other planets in the system and other ultracool red dwarf systems.

Elsa Ducrot, a co-author affiliated with the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) in France, was part of the team that conducted previous research on the TRAPPIST-1 system. Ducrot contributed to the discussion by stating: “It’s easier to characterize terrestrial planets around smaller, cooler stars. If we want to understand habitability around M stars, the TRAPPIST-1 system is a great laboratory. These are the best targets for looking at rocky planets’ atmospheres.”

Ok, we should know this as well;

Why and how did the research team measure the temperature of TRAPPIST-1 b?

Previous studies of TRAPPIST-1 b using the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes failed to detect any indication of a puffy atmosphere. Still, they could not conclusively eliminate the possibility of a dense one. To reduce the uncertainty, measuring the planet’s temperature was deemed necessary. “This planet is tidally locked, with one side facing the star at all times and the other in permanent darkness,” explained Pierre-Olivier Lagage from CEA, one of the co-authors of the study. “If it has an atmosphere to circulate and redistribute the heat, the dayside will be cooler than if there is no atmosphere.” The research team employed the technique of secondary eclipse photometry, using MIRI to measure the variation in brightness from the system as the planet moved behind the star.

While TRAPPIST-1 b does not emit visible light, it does radiate an infrared glow. By subtracting the star’s brightness during the secondary eclipse from the combined brightness of the star and planet, the team was able to accurately determine the amount of infrared light that the planet produced.

temperature of TRAPPIST-1 b
Credits: Illustration: NASA, ESA, CSA, J. Olmsted (STScI); Science: Thomas Greene (NASA Ames), Taylor Bell (BAERI), Elsa Ducrot (CEA), Pierre-Olivier Lagage (CEA)

Now, let’s find out;

What is the significance of detecting a secondary eclipse using the Webb telescope?

Detecting a secondary eclipse using Webb is a significant achievement. Given that the star’s brightness is over 1,000 times greater than the planet’s, resulting in a change in brightness that is less than 0.1%.

Taylor Bell analyzed the data.  He is a post-doctoral researcher at the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute. He clarified: “There was also some fear that we’d miss the eclipse. The planets all tug on each other, so the orbits are not perfect”. Moreover, he says: “But it was just amazing: The time of the eclipse that we saw in the data matched the predicted time within a couple of minutes.”

This study was carried out as a component of the Webb Guaranteed Time Observation (GTO) program 1177, one of the eight programs aimed at thoroughly characterizing the TRAPPIST-1 system during Webb’s first year of operation. Additional observations of TRAPPIST-1 b during secondary eclipses are underway. Now that the team has gained insights into the quality of data that can be obtained. They aim to capture a complete phase curve showing the variation in brightness throughout the planet’s orbit. Observing the temperature changes from day to night will enable them to verify whether the planet has an atmosphere.

Lagag, worked on developing the MIRI instrument for more than two decades. He says: “There was one target that I dreamed of having,” Moreover, he said: “And I dreamed of this. This is the first time we can detect the emission from a rocky, temperate planet. It’s a significant step in the story of discovering exoplanets.”


Published by: Sky Headlines