James Webb Space Telescope Current Affairs

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LHS 1140b: Another planet in habitable zone discovered

Astronomers have discovered yet another planet, called LHS1140b, which is expected to be present in the Goldilocks Zone. It’s not so far away, either. It is found orbiting around the star LHS 1140 some 39 light-years away.

Goldilocks Zone refers to a habitable zone where the temperature is neither too high nor too low.

The planet is found to be rocky, like the Earth but is over six-times as massive as Earth and about 1.5-times larger and falls under the category of ‘Super Earth’. Its gravitational pull will be three times stronger than that of the Earth. Rocky planets within the habitable zone are the best candidates to find evidence of some form of life.

Super Earth: These are planets that are bigger and more massive than Earth and yet smaller and less massive than the next biggest planet, Neptune.

The very close location of the planet will make it easier for the astronomers to study its atmosphere and look for signs of life in the near-future. The study of a planet’s atmosphere is vital to look for signs of life. If the atmosphere is found to be thick and filled with carbon dioxide, like Venus, then it can be concluded that it would be too hot to hold life or water. On the other hand, if the atmosphere is too thin and wispy like Mars, then all the water will get locked up as ice.

The first planet outside our solar system was found out in 1995. With the help of NASA’s Kepler telescope, the discovery of planets has become easier. So far, astronomers have identified 52 potentially habitable planets and around 3,600 planets outside our solar system. With the launch of James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) by NASA in 2018, chances of studying planets and detecting a familiar atmosphere will increase manifold. JWST will succeed the Hubble space telescope.


NASA completes construction of James Webb Space Telescope

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has completed the construction of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) after more than 20 years of work.

JWST is the largest-ever space telescope is expected to launch in 2018 following the in-depth testing. It is bigger and more powerful than NASA’s operational Hubble Space Telescope.

Key Facts

  • James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a space telescope optimized for observations in the infrared. It is a planned to be launched in 2018 on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana.
  • It is the formal successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope. After its launch it will be the premier observatory of the next decade.
  • JWST has been named after James E. Webb, former administrator of NASA. It was formerly known as the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST).
  • It is an international collaboration between of about 17 countries including NASA, European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
  • It has a total area of 270 square feet composed of 18 hexagonal mirrors coated with beryllium and gold to collect the infrared readings. JWST has reflecting mirrors having diameter of 6.5m
  • Hubble’s mirror has an area of just 48 square feet. Thus, JWST will be able to see much fainter objects than Hubble.
  • Location: After its launch it will be positioned at the Earth–Sun L2 Lagrange Point (It is point of orbital equilibrium for blocking all its infrared interference).
  • Four instruments of JWST: Cameras and spectrometers that are able to record extremely faint signals. NIRSpec having programmable microshutters for observation up to 100 objects simultaneously. Cryocooler for cooling the mid-infrared detectors.
  • Applications: It will help in broad range of investigations across the fields of astronomy and cosmology. It will help to understand the origins of the universe, evolution of our own Solar System, search for signs of life on faraway planets. It can also analyze the atmospheres of exoplanets that pass in front of their stars