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Carbon dioxide detected on exoplanet for the 1st time

Carbon dioxide is a prevalent molecule on Earth. And while scientists have expected that to be true for many other planets, it was only detected on an exoplanet for the first time recently with the James Webb Space Telescope.

The planet, a gas giant similar in size to Jupiter, orbits its star closer than Mercury does our own sun and is 700 light years away. 

In order to observe the contents of its atmosphere, the team had to collect data while the planet was passing in front of its sun. It was then able to study the light as it was filtered through the atmosphere of the planet. 

Everett Schlawin is a co-author of the study and assistant research professor at the University of Arizona. He said the measurements surpassed expectations. 

"What was just incredible, was pulling up the spectrum for the first time, was just how rich it was. I was showing this to my colleagues and they were asking me is this a model or is this our measurement? Because it just looked so good, better than anything we had seen before.” Schlawin said. 

The results show how effective the James Webb telescope is, and will help scientists understand how planets form. 

UA postdoctoral researcher Sarah Moran says collected data will help answer many questions about planet formation. 

"We can also start to understand things about the atmospheric chemistry of the planet. So how the planet’s atmosphere has changed over time and what kind of physical and chemical processes might be happening within the planet." Moran said.

Moran added that answering these questions and further research like this could ultimately answer the ultimate human question: are we alone in the universe?

Greg Hahne started as a news intern at KJZZ in 2020 and returned as a field correspondent in 2021. He learned his love for radio by joining Arizona State University's Blaze Radio, where he worked on the production team.