NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which will embrace the skies in October this year, could detect ammonia around six gas dwarf planets after just a few orbits. It indicates that the telescope can potentially find life signatures on other planets in just 60 hours. It could be groundbreaking as gas dwarf planets are believed to be capable of fostering life.
Since none of such super-Earths or mini-Neptunes belong to our solar system, astronomers find it difficult to determine whether their atmosphere contains ammonia and other potential signs of extraterrestrial life.
“What really surprised me about the results is that we may realistically find signs of life on other planets in the next 5 to 10 years,” said Caprice Phillips, a graduate student at the Ohio State University.
Philips and her team created a model on how the telescope’s instruments would respond to varying clouds and atmospheres. The team then ranked a list of places where the James Webb telescope should seek for life.
“Humankind has contemplated the questions, ‘Are we alone? What is life? Is life elsewhere similar to us?” said Phillips. “My research suggests that for the first time, we have the scientific knowledge and technological capabilities to realistically begin to find the answers to these questions,” she added.
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope was earlier slated to launch in 2020; however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the launch date had to be moved to 2021. The telescope will now be launched on October 31.
The telescope’s recent tests have shown that the fully assembled observatory will endure the jarring shakes and vibrations caused during takeoff, as per NASA. The James Webb Space Telescope is the biggest and the most powerful space telescope that has ever been built. It will help astronomers unravel the mysteries of the universe and make our understanding of outer space broader.