With the James Webb telescope, researchers have once again succeeded in taking a spectacular picture. An unimaginably distant sandstorm could be captured photographically with the special properties of the device.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and has been in use since December 2021. It is expected to be in service for the next 15 to 20 years. The research project behind it was created by a joint venture between the US, European and Canadian space agencies.
Compared to its predecessor, with the JWST it is possible to look even deeper and sharper into the universe. The JWTS's 20-foot primary mirror is twice as wide as that of the Hubble Space Telescope, allowing it to capture more light and a wider range of wavelengths, including the ability to penetrate nebulae. This allows previously undiscovered stars, planets and galaxies to be discovered and analyzed.
And that's exactly what researchers have now succeeded in doing. A dust storm has been captured on the exoplanet known as VHS 1256b. The planet is about 40 light-years from Earth, which is about 380 trillion kilometers.
But the sandstorm on the exoplanet is not comparable to, for example, a desert sandstorm on Earth. The "sandstorm" photographed now is a diffuse nebula of small grains consisting of silicon and oxygen. These are as big as smoke particles and comparable to very fine sand.
Another difference from a traditional sandstorm is the temperature. The storm on VHS 1256b reaches the temperature of a candle flame, which is about 1000 degrees Celsius.
The main task of the JWST over the next few years will be to observe the so-called pioneer stars and galaxies, which began to glow just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.
The researchers involved also want to explore whether it is conceivable at some point in the future to enable human life on the exoplanet. The sandstorm that has now been captured is said to be only the first of many discoveries in the universe that are expected in the future.
Source: BBC, ZDF (1), ZDF (2)