It is very similar to the news of the discovery of an exoplanet Earth 41 light-years away—codenamed LHS 475 b—caused a sensation. Not only because it is the first confirmation of its kind by the James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most powerful ever, but also because it is a rocky celestial body (like ours) and about the same size as our planet.
“The Webb telescope has huge potential,” he comments. Barbara Nigriin charge of the Italian Space Agency’s universe observation missions – the only one capable of describing the atmospheres of planets outside the solar system.
Italy emphasizes, in the field of exoplanet research, “at the cutting edge” of astrophysics. Now, it’s the fact that they exist. “The Kepler mission aimed to find exoplanets, and has tracked nearly 3,000.” Now there theis, the transiting exoplanet survey satellite, the number has exceeded five thousand. “This LHS 475 b was actually discovered by Tess. Most of the celestial bodies detected are gas giants, which doesn’t matter much to us, because what we’re looking for are Earth-like exoplanets. But, in order for them to be, they must have three characteristics: be rocky and have dimensions similar to those of Earth, have an atmosphere and be within the habitable range. For example, “If water is found, it must be liquid.” “If the temperature is too high, it will evaporate, and if it is too cold You will freeze”: two conditions that would limit the chances of survival on such planets.
when theis I mentioned this planet like EarthJames Webb turned his attention (and giant hexagonal honeycomb mirrors) to checking it out. To understand that it is a planet, it was enough to “use the same transit system that other telescopes use.” This means: “If the planet passes in an orbit in front of its star, there is a decrease in the light flux.” LHS 475 b is “very close to the star and completes its orbit in two days (versus our 365).” But a potential astronaut of the future manages to reach the planet, what will he find? “Its star is smaller and cooler than our sun — it’s a ‘red dwarf,’” Negri says. “But the planet is definitely hotter than Earth, maybe even by a few hundred degrees.” But what is important at this stage is to “confirm the existence of the atmosphere and its composition.” web I sent the collected data to research centers, and on the ground a spectral analysis should be done. “It will take months to understand which molecules are involved,” Negri said. But there is almost certainly no atmosphere like Titan, which is dominated by methane. It could rather be based on carbon dioxide, in a proportion as great as that of Venus, and therefore highly toxic, or it could be the main ingredient but not as widespread.
Italy is at the forefront of searching for outer planetsWe have already participated in the Khufu mission, which is a small satellite of the European Space Agency in orbit since 2019, and we are now in the process of completing the construction of the Plato satellite. Italy is the first contributor, the telescopes are built by Leonardo’s company in Florence. The first four have been delivered. The launch is scheduled for the end of 2026. But it’s not over yet. “Three years later, another European satellite, Ariel, will take over: it has not only one telescope but also this Italian telescope, which aims to form the atmospheres of the already known exoplanets.” You will mainly be doing James Webb.
the space telescope It was only loaned out for this purpose. Its real goal is to “study the universe from an evolutionary point of view”: it is able to photograph our distant past immediately after the Big Bang. But being so powerful, it is also able to focus on goals set by researchers, as needed.
Italy “has a tradition of observational astronomy dating back to the time of Galileo Galilei”: we have contributed “to the largest telescopes in the world, from Chile to the United States. Optical astronomy projects continued to be carried out from Earth and from space, and in this way we advanced to become the leading European country in the search for exoplanets.”
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