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Webb telescope detects light from a planet similar to Earth in groundbreaking discovery

Webb telescope detects light from a planet similar to Earth in groundbreaking discovery

Sadly, it's not habitable for humans.

Back in 2016, NASA’s infrared Spitzer Space Telescope discovered several planets orbiting a single star known as TRAPPIST-1.

The star which is located about 40.7 light-years away from Earth was identified 24 years ago.

Now, light has been detected from one of the planets that looks seemingly similar to our planet Earth. So, scientists used the James Webb Space Telescope to investigate and measure its atmospheric temperature.

The telescope, known also as the Webb, has completely transformed our understanding of the universe, including black hole discoveries that scientists previously deemed 'impossible'.


The Webb's capacity to observe long wavelengths enables it to look further back in time, catching a glimpse of the first galaxies that formed in the early days of the universe. Furthermore, the telescope can explore the formation of stars and planetary systems inside dust clouds.

‘There was one target that I dreamed of having,' envisioned Dr Pierre-Olivier Lagage, a co-author of the study.

‘And it was this one. This is the first time we can detect the emission from a rocky, temperate planet.

'It’s a really important step in the story of discovering exoplanets.’

Commenting on the incredible discovery, NASA stated: 'The result marks an important step in determining whether planets orbiting small active stars like TRAPPIST-1 can sustain atmospheres needed to support life.

'It also bodes well for Webb’s ability to characterise temperate, Earth-sized exoplanets using MIRI.'

NASA, ESA, CSA, J. Olmsted (STScI))
NASA, ESA, CSA, J. Olmsted (STScI))

The Earth-looking planet, dubbed TRAPPIST-1b, releases an infrared glow instead of visible light which was detected by the Webb's highly sensitive Mid-infrared Instrument (MIRI).

Dr. Thomas Greene, a NASA astrophysicist and lead author said: ‘These observations take advantage of Webb’s mid-infrared capability.

‘No previous telescopes have had the sensitivity to measure such dim mid-infrared light.’

Unfortunately, TRAPPIST-1 b, is the innermost planet of its neighbours and receives about four times the solar energy that Earth does. Meaning it's unlikely to support human life.

'There are ten times as many of these stars in the Milky Way as there are stars like the Sun, and they are twice as likely to have rocky planets as stars like the Sun,' continued Green.

'But they are also very active ­– they are very bright when they’re young, and they give off flares and X-rays that can wipe out an atmosphere.'

Guess, the plan's still on for migration to Mars - or is it?

Featured Image Credit: 24K-Production/Getty / NASA, ESA, CSA, J. Olmsted (STScI))