Web binocular observations can be misinterpreted


With info from MIT – 09/20/2022

It’s essentially the most highly effective and most costly telescope in historical past – however on this case, it appears the observations trumped the theories.
[Imagem: NASA]

Inadequate fashions

The James Webb Space Telescope is revealing the universe with unprecedented, spectacular readability, due to its infrared imaginative and prescient, which sees by means of cosmic mud.

In addition to seeing farther than ever earlier than, the online can even seize essentially the most detailed view of celestial our bodies in our personal galaxy — a number of the most anticipated of the 5,000 exoplanets already discovered within the galaxy.

Astronomers plan to benefit from the telescope’s precision in capturing gentle to decode the environment round these worlds, on the lookout for indicators of habitability — and even indicators of life.

But researchers at MIT within the US have despatched a worrying message to scientists engaged on deciphering these information: essentially the most superior instruments astronomers have for decoding light-based indicators aren’t adequate to precisely interpret the information. Creates new telescopes.

In explicit, opacity fashions—instruments that mannequin how gentle interacts with matter as a perform of fabric properties—could require important modifications to precisely match net information.

If these fashions will not be refined, the properties of planetary atmospheres—corresponding to temperature, stress, and chemical composition—can be off by orders of magnitude.

“There is a scientifically important distinction between 5% water versus 25% water, which present fashions can’t distinguish,” mentioned staff member Julien de Wit.

“Currently, the mannequin we use to decrypt spectral info is lower than the accuracy and high quality of the information now we have from the James Webb Telescope. We have to step up our sport and deal with the opacity drawback collectively,” added his colleague Prajwal Niraula.


Webb has already photographed exoplanets, however the information can’t be correctly interpreted.
[Imagem: NASA/ESA/CSA, A Carter (UCSC)/ERS 1386 team/A. Pagan (STScI)]


Opacity is a measure of how simply photons go by means of a cloth. Photons of sure wavelengths can go immediately by means of a cloth, be absorbed, or be mirrored again, relying on if and the way they work together with particular molecules within the materials. This interplay additionally relies on the temperature and stress of the fabric.

An opacity mannequin works based mostly on a number of assumptions about how gentle behaves in these interactions. In the context of exoplanets, an opacity mannequin can decode the kinds and abundances of components and chemical compounds within the planet’s environment based mostly on the planet’s gentle captured by telescopes.

Professor de Wit says the delicate opacity mannequin, which he likens to a translation instrument, “does an excellent job” of decoding spectral information obtained by devices such because the Hubble Space Telescope.

“So far, this Rosetta Stone is working properly. But now that we’ll the following degree with the accuracy of the online, our translation course of prevents us from choosing up vital nuances, just like the distinction between a planet being liveable or not,” the researcher summarizes.


Theoretical and laboratory correction

To take a look at essentially the most generally used opacity mannequin, the staff created eight variations, which they known as “disruptive fashions.”

They discovered that, based mostly on the identical spectrum of sunshine, every perturbed mannequin produced predictions with very massive variations in regards to the properties of the planet’s environment.

The staff concluded that if present opacity fashions have been utilized to gentle spectra obtained by the Web telescope, they might obtain a “wall of accuracy”. That is, they could not be delicate sufficient to inform whether or not a planet’s atmospheric temperature is 20°C or 320°C, or whether or not a selected fuel occupies 5% or 25% of the atmospheric layer.

“This distinction is vital in order that we can constrain planet formation mechanisms and reliably determine biosignatures,” Niraula mentioned.

And this drawback can’t be solved in a single day. To enhance present opacity fashions, the staff says, extra laboratory measurements and extra theoretical calculations are wanted to refine the mannequin’s assumptions about how gentle and totally different molecules work together, in addition to collaboration between totally different disciplines and, specifically, astronomy and spectroscopy.


Articles: The rising opacity problem in exoplanet atmospheric options
Authors: Prajwal Niraula, Julien De Wit, Aiuli E. Gordon, Robert J. Hargreaves, Clara Sousa-Silva, Roman V. Kochanov
Magazine: Nature Astronomy
DOI: 10.1038/s41550-022-01773-1

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