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The James Webb Telescope is very accurate: astronomers risk misunderstanding the results

The James Webb Space Telescope is doing so well, indeed, that it is leading some MIT researchers to sound a paradoxical alarm: The new telescope is so accurate that astronomers risk drawing completely wrong conclusions. What may at first glance appear to be a contradiction arises from the fact that while the scientific instruments aboard James Webb provide astronomers with much more accurate data than those provided by the Hubble telescope, for example, The mathematical models used to explain it have not yet developed at the same pace.

The James Webb Space Telescope captured the first image of an exoplanet

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The problem is specifically related to Spectroscopy of light captured by James Webb from the atmosphere of exoplanets, one of the main areas of research in the new telescope. Currently adopted models for explaining how light emitted from different elements is filtered by different materials and powders that it passes through before reaching the telescope’s mirror have not been refined enough to work with data with such accuracy. Photons emitted by one material are or are not absorbed by other elements based on their wavelength, an interaction that also depends on the material’s temperature and pressure. By analyzing the spectrum of light a telescope receives, it is possible to trace what elements produced it or which filtered it, as long as you know how to properly estimate how these interactions occur. if not, Atmospheric properties of planets such as temperature, pressure, and the elements that make up them can be misinterpreted Up to an order of magnitude.

There is a scientifically significant difference between having a compound like water at 5% versus 25%, a difference that current models are unable to discern.Julian de Witt, assistant professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT and co-author of a study published in natural astronomy. In the research, the team looked at eight models of the interaction between light and matter with limitations in each of them on the level of accuracy and tested them with synthetic spectroscopic datasets with the same level of accuracy as the instruments on board the James ship. Webb Space Telescope, compares the results with the results of the model considered correct. The analysis showed how Each model, starting from the same data set, makes very different predictions about the characteristics of the planet’s atmosphere. The results suggest that the data collected by James Webb may conflict with a “wall of accuracy” due to current scientific knowledge: models”Not sensitive enough to distinguish whether the planet’s atmosphere temperature is 300 or 600 K, or whether the gas is 5% or 25% of the atmosphere“.

The Tarantula Nebula in all its glory as never seen before by James Webb

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Another problem is that all models, even faulty ones, are able to provide results consistent with the data:We have determined that there are enough parameters to set, that even with an incorrect model it is possible to get realistic results, i.e. you will not be able to understand that your model is wrong and what it tells you is wrong“There is only one solution to this problem: to increase our knowledge of how light and mitera interact with each other, especially in environments other than the terrestrial environment. In the meantime, the great power provided must be used responsibly … from the new space telescope.”

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