“James Webb” Spotted a Dust Storm on a Distant Planet
The James Webb Orbital Telescope has spotted a dust storm on an exoplanet outside our solar system. This indirectly indicates that the massive brown dwarf VHS 1256 b, located about 40 light-years from Earth, contains water, methane, carbon monoxide, and even carbon dioxide.
While other telescopes have been able to piece together as much information as Webb has on VHS 1256 b, this is the first time a single telescope has collected so much data at once.
“No other telescope has identified so many features at the same time for a single target. We see many molecules in the same spectrum from Webb that detail the planet’s dynamic cloud and weather systems,” said Andrew Skemer of the University of California, Santa Cruz.
VHS 1256 b is a relatively young planet – it is only 150 million years old, while our Earth is about 4.6 billion. As it gets older, scientists believe it will cool, causing the massive cloud cover in its sky to dissipate. By then, the planet will be languishing in its own searing cloud mess.