Webb Telescope Discovers its First Exoplanet, an Earth-Sized World

Jan 19, 2023

The James Webb telescope for the first time has confirmed the existence of an exoplanet. It looks like Earth. 

It’s about the same size as Earth and has a rocky surface. We probably can't live on the planet. Scientists say it’s likely to be the first of many more exoplanets we will find.  

“These first observational results from an Earth-size, rocky planet open the door to many future possibilities for studying rocky planet atmospheres with Webb,” said the astrophysics division director at NASA’s DC headquarters. “Webb is bringing us closer and closer to a new understanding of Earth-like worlds outside our solar system, and the mission is only just getting started.” 

The planet is labeled LHS 475 b. It's 41 light years away. LHS 475 b is in the Octans constellation. Octans, though faint, can be viewed from the Southern Hemisphere. The planet could be several hundred degrees warmer than Earth. The planet could be similar to Venus. Every two days it orbits a red-dwarf sun. Its sun is half as hot as our sun.

Data from TESS, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, had suggested the planet might exist. Researchers used Webb to confirm the planet’s existence. They watched LHS 475 b’s star dim as the planet passed in front of it.

Scientists hope to get more data later this year. They need to figure out what type of atmosphere the planet has, or even if the planet has one.  

Image courtesy of NASA.

Based on information in the story, what will the scientists studying LHS 475 b most likely do next? (Common Core RI.5.1; RI.6.1)
a. discover a new exoplanet
b. shut down the Webb Telescope
c. study LHS 475 b’s atmosphere
d. rename LHS 475 b
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