Webb Can Detect Planets Orbiting White Dwarfs, And Maybe Even See Signs of Life

In a recent study accepted to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, an international team of researchers led by Texas A&M University investigate how the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) can detect a variety of exoplanets orbiting the nearest 15 white dwarfs to Earth using its Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) Medium Resolution Spectrograph (MRS). This study holds the potential to expand our knowledge of exoplanets, their planetary compositions, and if they can support life.

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Webb and Hubble Peer Into the Wreckage of a Galactic Collision

This image from the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope depicts IC 1623, an entwined pair of interacting galaxies which lies around 270 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Cetus. Credit: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, L. Armus & A. Evans; CC BY 4.0 Acknowledgement: R. Colombari.

Earlier this month we asked, what could be better than a pair of galaxies observed by a pair of iconic space telescopes? Now, there is an exciting new answer.  Even better than a pair of galaxies is a pair of galaxies that are colliding!

The Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope have each taken a look at a pair of intertwined galaxies that are 270 million light-year away from Earth, together called IC 1623. Scientists say this galactic collision has ignited frenzied star formation called a starburst, creating new stars at a rate more than 20 times that of our Milky Way.

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Chandra’s X-ray Vision Combined With JWST Reveals Even More Details About the Universe

A composite image showing x-ray radiation superimposed over an infrared image. Credit: NASA

NASA scientist have released images combining the early data from the James Webb Space Telescope with X-ray data taken with the Chandra Observatory. Besides their beauty, the images offer insights into the inner workings of some of the most complex astrophysical phenomena in the universe.

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Here’s Webb’s View of the Pillars of Creation

The Pillars of Creation are set off in a kaleidoscope of color in NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s near-infrared-light view. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Anton M. Koekemoer (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI).

The James Webb Space Telescope is living up to expectations. When it was launched, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said it would “… open up secrets of the universe that will be just stupendous, if not almost overwhelming.” Nelson’s statement rings true a few months into the telescope’s multi-year mission.

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These Bizarre Concentric Rings in Space are Real, Not an Optical Illusion. New Data from JWST Explains What’s Happening

James Webb Space Telescope image of partial dust shells surrounding WR 140. Credit: JWST/MIRI/Judy Schmidt.

Back in August, an early release image from the James Webb Space Telescope revealed a bizarre sight: as many as 17 concentric rings encircling a binary star system, called Wolf-Rayet 140. Was it a spiral nebula, an alien megastructure or just an optical illusion?

The answer, revealed today, is dust. A new paper published in Nature Astronomy explains how stellar winds in this odd binary system blasts dust into near-perfect concentric circles every time the two stars come close to each other in their eccentric orbits.

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Webb and Hubble Work Together to Reveal This Spectacular Galaxy Pair — and Several Bonuses!

By combining data from the James Webb Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope, this image of galaxy pair VV 191 includes near-infrared light from Webb, and ultraviolet and visible light from Hubble. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Rogier Windhorst (ASU), William Keel (University of Alabama), Stuart Wyithe (University of Melbourne), JWST PEARLS Team, Alyssa Pagan (STScI).

What’s better than a pair of galaxies observed by a pair of iconic space telescopes? The answer to that, according to researchers using the Hubble and James Webb Space Telescopes, is finding even more galaxies and other remarkable details no one expected in the duo’s observations.

“Galaxies in the foreground, background, deep background, and into the depths,” said astronomer William Keel from Galaxy Zoo, on Twitter.

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Another Ghostly Spiral Galaxy Revealed by JWST

JWST and IC 5332
This image of the spiral galaxy IC 5332, taken by the NASA/ESA/CSA JWST observatory, with its MIRI instrument. Courtesy ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST and PHANGS-HST Teams

The famous American baseball player once said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.” That’s certainly true of the JWST, which just released its latest “spider-web” image of a distant galaxy. It “watched” IC 5332 using the onboard Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI). In the process it observed spectacular details not easily seen in visible light.

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Webb Scans a Nearby Brown Dwarf and Finds it has Clouds Made of Sand

An artist's conception of a brown dwarf. A new study identifies CK Vulpeculae as the remnant of a collison between a brown dwarf and a white dwarf. Image: By NASA/JPL-Caltech (http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/image/114) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
An artist's conception of a brown dwarf. A new study identifies CK Vulpeculae as the remnant of a collison between a brown dwarf and a white dwarf. Image: By NASA/JPL-Caltech (http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/image/114) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In its first few months of operation, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is already proving that it was well worth the wait! To date, it has provided astronomers with the most detailed and precise images of the cosmos, conducted observations of iconic galaxies and nebulae, peered to the very edge of the Universe, and obtained spectra from distant exoplanets. These resulting images, made public through the JWST Early Release Science (ERS) program, have provided a good cross-section of what this next-generation observatory can do.

Among its many objectives, the JWST will provide valuable insights into the formation and evolution of exoplanet systems through direct imaging. Using data from the ERS, an international team of astronomers and astrophysicists conducted a direct imaging study of a brown dwarf companion (VHS 1256-1257 b) orbiting within a triple brown dwarf system approximately 69.0 light-years away. The spectra they obtained from this body provided a detailed composition of its atmosphere, which included an unexpected find – clouds made of silicate minerals (aka. sand)!

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Webb Turns its Infrared Gaze on Mars

Graphic of Webb’s 2 NIRCam instrument images of Mars, taken on Sept. 5, 2022. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Mars JWST/GTO team

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the most complex and sophisticated observatory ever deployed. Using its advanced suite of infrared instruments, coronographs, and spectrometers – contributed by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) – this observatory will spend the next ten to twenty years building on the achievements of its predecessor, the venerable Hubble. This includes exoplanet characterization, star and planet formation, and the formation and evolution of the earliest galaxies in the Universe.

However, one of the main objectives of the JWST is to study the planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and other celestial bodies here in the Solar System. This includes Mars, the first Solar planet to get the James Webb treatment! The images Webb took (recently released by the ESA) provide a unique perspective on Mars, showing what the planet looks like in infrared wavelengths. The data yielded by these images could provide new insight into Mars’ atmosphere and environment, complimenting decades of observations by orbiters, landers, rovers, and other telescopes.

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Uh oh, There’s a Problem With one of Webb’s Science Instruments

James Webb

James Webb is currently experiencing problems with its MIRI instrument. The problem is due to increased friction in one of MIRI’s mechanisms in the Medium-Resolution Spectroscopy (MRS) mode. The observatory is otherwise healthy, but the team decided to stop observations using MRS mode until they find a solution.

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