March 25, 2023: The journey of the planet might serve as an ideal case study for planetary evolution in our universe. Continue reading to know more!
The James Webb Space Telescope is in for a new spectacular cosmic discovery yet again, and has now landed its vision upon a planet that orbits not one, but two stars, and that too over a period of 10,000 years!
The planet shall be called VHS 1256 b, and is about 40 light-years away from Earth.
It is about four times farther from its stars than Pluto is from our Sun.
This makes it a huge scientific spectacle for the Webb, since it suffers from less light interference coming from the stars due to the large distance the planet shares with them, and allows the telescope to observe the planet directly.
Since VHS 1256 b is a young planet just 150 million years old, researchers have speculated that it will continue to change and cool over billions of years.
The planet has clouds replicating silicate features, with a bouncy atmosphere constantly in a dynamic of moving, rising, mixing, and floating, slowly pulling hotter, warmer materials up, and pushing colder materials further down. It has a complete daytime of 22 hours. Its dynamic atmosphere causes drastic alterations in brightness levels, making it possibly the most variable planetary-mass object known to date.
The temperatures can reach a burning 830 degrees Celsius higher up in the atmosphere of VHS 1256 b, where the clouds are churning. Webb has captured not only small, but also large silicate dust grains in its clouds. The small particles are more like impurities in smoke, while the larger ones can be very hot sand particles.
It is a brown dwarf planet, and its gravity is much lower compared to its counterparts, which allows for the silicate clouds to become undetectable higher up in the atmosphere. According to the International Astronomical Union, a dwarf planet is a celestial body that directly orbits the sun, has enough mass to assume a nearly round shape, has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and is not a moon.
“We’ve identified silicates, but better understanding which grain sizes and shapes match specific types of clouds is going to take a lot of additional work. This is not the final word on this planet – it is the beginning of a large-scale modelling effort to fit Webb’s complex data,” said Brittany Miles of the University of Arizona, the one who led the observation. [Source: India Today]
The two instruments aboard Webb, the Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) and the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), gathered the data on a spectra, which was later analysed by the astronomers.