Is Earth the only place where life exists? This question has puzzled astronomers for centuries. However, thanks to NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, we may soon have the answer.
The world’s largest and most powerful space telescope will soon be launched from French Guiana with a minimum 10-year mission to observe the farthest corners of the universe.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), considered the successor to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, was built to help scientists better understand how the universe formed more than 13.8 billion years ago . Besides, this $10 billion mission has another mission, which is to investigate distant planets in the universe for potential signs of life.
According to Dr Megan Argo, an astrophysicist at the University of Central Lancashire and vice president of the Royal Astronomical Society, this part of the mission is sure to attract a lot of public interest.
So far, scientists have not found any evidence of extraterrestrial life. Even so, many scientists believe that life exists on some distant planets millions of light-years away. JWST would be the right tool to test this hypothesis.
Dr Argo told Express.co.uk: “The idea of extraterrestrial life is actually quite interesting. James Webb will allow us to answer this question.”
JWST will look for potential signs of habitability by scanning exoplanets in the atmosphere for their individual chemical signatures (biological characteristics). According to NASA, they are defined as variations in time and gases in the atmosphere that can be influenced by life on the surface.
For example, a space telescope could look at light shining through the atmosphere to pick out emission or absorption lines for specific gases associated with life. These may include oxygen, which may be produced by photosynthesis, or methane, which may be produced by bacterial activity.
Dr Argo said: “What JWST can do is look at the chemical composition of the atmosphere, which is a really hard thing to do from the ground because these planets are so much dimmer than they are. with the stars they are orbiting”.
It is known that the James Webb space telescope will be launched on December 22 from French Guiana on the Ariane 5 rocket.