James Webb Telescope Discovers Stunning Planet: It Has Two Faces

This is one of the most surprising finds in recent years

James Webb Telescope Discovers Stunning Planet: It Has Two Faces
Recreation of the planet by artists and astronomers | Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, Ralf Crawford

The more we know about the universe around us, the closer it seems that we are to a science fiction movie, but the truth is that reality always holds new surprises. Now, the James Webb Space Telescope has discovered something truly amazing on a planet that is almost 300 light-years away from us: it has two totally different faces. As if it were a movie about the future, the planet has one side that is always in darkness, while the other is always exposed to the light of its hot sun.

A somewhat unusual planet

An international team of researchers has used NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to create the climate map of WASP-43 b, a giant, gaseous exoplanet that has revealed a series of unexpected surprises about the shape of the planet itself. And it is really varied as it has two faces totally differentiable between its night side and its day side.

According to NASA’s blog post, the night side has dense and quite complex clouds, while the day side features completely clear skies. Equatorial winds of more than 8,000 kilometres are believed to be the cause of this peculiar phenomenon.

In this way, what is truly remarkable is that it has two perfectly clear faces. On the one hand, the one that is always illuminated, on the other, the one that is always dark. Until now, other space telescopes have tried to analyze it in depth, but it had been impossible to do so with the level of detail that Webb has reached.

This has been responsible for mapping the temperature of the planet, as well as the composition of the atmosphere in full detail. While on the always lit side temperatures of 1,250 degrees are reached, on the cold side it reaches “only” half.

The planet WASP-43 b is known as hot Jupiter because it is similar in size to this gigantic planet. However, it diverges quite a bit in its composition of helium and hydrogen, which makes it quite a bit hotter than the giants we find in our solar system, as NASA has shown.

In addition, this study has served to show the incredible capabilities of the James Webb Space Telescope, as it has measured with great precision the climate of a planet that is 280 light years from us. The development of this telescope was expensive and had dozens of delays and cost overruns, but it has finally managed to prove that the wait was worth it. Its precision and quick way of analyzing the cosmos has made it the worthy successor to Hubble, as well as surpassing it in absolutely every aspect.

In addition, all the data collected by the James Webb is available in open access to speed up the research process on the planet WASP-43 b. This is good news so that science does not have as many barriers as it has been accustomed to in recent times.

The planet is unusual because of its unique characteristics, although there are other great examples of planets with other remarkable aspects. Like those in which it rains diamonds or those that should not exist according to our astronomical knowledge.



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