JWST will not capture images like this illustration, sorry to disappoint you. Image credit: Dotted Yeti/Shutterstock.com
A hobbyist on Reddit created the first image of the TRAPPIST-1 system using data from JWST. Exoplanet fans will be delighted to hear that JWST — a telescope so powerful it makes Hubble look like someone smeared their thumb on the lens — has already taken a long first look at the TRAPPIST system. -1.
Using publicly available data from the JWST, Redditor arizonaskies2022 was able to piece together the first image of the star, potentially while one of its planets was transiting it, although this has yet to be confirmed.
“Both images are public raw data files that I found and uploaded to the MAST website,” Arizonaskies2022 explained on the JWST subreddit. “I did minimal processing, no image is cropped, just a bit of stretching and color.”
Go here to see better.
TRAPPIST-1 is exciting to astronomers for a number of reasons, not least because it has seven roughly Earth-sized planets orbiting it, three of which are in the habitable zone. The ultra-cool red dwarf is only 40 light-years away, making it easier to study, and it can even hold huge amounts of water.
Now that JWST is up and running and pointed to it, we could learn more about the planets’ atmospheres, if they had any.
“Our goal,” Olivia Lim, principal investigator of a JWST program studying four of the seven TRAPPIST-1 planets, told The Planetary Society, “is to say whether planets TRAPPIST-1b, c, g, and h have an atmosphere or not, and to do this we will try to detect the characteristics of molecules such as carbon dioxide, water and ozone in the transit spectra of these planets.
The results of studies like these will not only tell us about TRAPPIST-1 and its planets, but could potentially help us make educated guesses about other solar systems and where to look for life. For example, if we found that the rocky planets closest to the star were devoid of atmosphere, potentially swept away by solar flares from their host stars, this could help us determine which position in solar systems is most likely to harbor life.
“This system offers the opportunity to test the concept of a habitable zone outside the solar system,” Jacob Lustig-Yaeger, co-investigator of a JWST program that will observe TRAPPIST-1h, told The Planetary Society.
“TRAPPIST-1 is so different from the Sun, and the planets orbit so close to it, that it is likely that there will be many surprises in our study of this system, and our efforts to understand these surprises will push the limits of the planet. science.”
More data and images will likely come soon, from teams studying the system. So far, it’s the best look we have at an extraordinary system, and one of our best candidates for finding life.