Water, water, everywhere on Earth; is there a drop to drink anywhere else in the galaxy? According to the James Webb Telescope, signs point to yes.
For those who haven’t been breathlessly following its progress, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a large, space-based observatory that was designed to be the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. Since its triumphant launch on Christmas Day 2022, Webb has been wowing scientists and amateur stargazers with astounding new images of the cosmos.
Named after former NASA administrator James E. Webb, the JWST is a collaborative project between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
The primary goal of the James Webb Space Telescope is to observe the universe in the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Infrared light is longer in wavelength than visible light and can penetrate dust clouds, allowing astronomers to study objects and phenomena that are otherwise obscured or difficult to observe with other telescopes.
The telescope aims to study the formation and evolution of the first galaxies that formed after the Big Bang, providing insights into the early universe.
Since its launch, the JWST has been busily investigating the atmospheres of exoplanets, searching for signs of habitability or the presence of key molecules such as water, carbon dioxide, and methane.
This week, Webb may have struck gold: Three times. Or rather, Webb may have struck something even more valuable than gold: Water.
“Webb analyzed the atmosphere of an ultrahot gas giant and mapped its temperatures,” announced NASA this week. “Despite scorching heat (nearly 5000 F or 2700 C), WASP-18 b has small amounts of atmospheric water — precisely measured due to Webb’s sensitivity.”
Besides WASP-18, Webb found water on one of Saturn’s moons.
“The Webb telescope has spotted a massive water emission from Saturn’s moon Enceladus, spanning over 6000 miles (9650 km) and gushing out at 79 gallons per second (about 299 liters per…