World’s most powerful space telescope hunts for aliens 240 trillion miles away

The world's most powerful Space telescope has joined the hunt for alien life more than 240 trillion miles from Earth.

The $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope is now searching for life beyond our planet.

The Trappist-1 system has seven rocky planets that are within the "goldilocks zone" of their star and has become an area of interest.

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The area is defined as being not too hot and not too cold for liquid water, an essential ingredient for life to exist on their surfaces meaning there could possibly some form of life on the planets.

René Doyon, principal investigator for Webb's infrared camera and spectrograph said: "What we've learnt so far about exoplanet systems is mostly around gas giants and mini Neptunes, but we haven't really explored rocky planets.

"Now we have this rock star system, Trappist-1, and all four of Webb's science instruments will observe that, do the first reconnaissance, find out 'do these planets have an atmosphere?' Then 'OK, what can you tell us about the composition?' That's our prime opportunity to study some potentially habitable planets."

Webb is the most powerful observatory sent to space and it is hoped it will help uncover the mysteries of space.

In addition to imagery, it also produces spectroscopic data that provides scientists with a breakdown of the composition of exoplanets beyond our solar system by measuring their light.

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That in turn provides greater insight into whether they have conditions conducive to life.

Klaus Pontoppidan, Webb project scientist said: "We'll get a much better understanding of where we actually ought to look, whether it should look like the earth or something else."

A mass of imagery and data from the telescope will be unleashed today (July 14), among it will be Webb's first images of our own solar system, including Jupiter.

All the data it gathers over the coming decades will be made public, allowing space sleuths to conduct their own analyses.

Jane Rigby, an astrophysicist at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Centre, who is Webb's operations project scientist, said: "Finding galaxies, finding weird stuff, many of the great discoveries were found by amateurs saying, 'What is that?' There's got to be a lot of opportunities for that just because there's so much data.".

Scientists have been poring over the images, particularly one that reveals distant galaxies that have been magnified by the gravity of a galaxy cluster in the foreground.

Barely visible to the naked eye unless you zoom in to several times magnification, is a red dot. Its extreme redness shows that it is highly "redshifted".

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Professor Karl Glazebrook, a British astronomer based at the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, will receive a large tranche of data from James Webb on Friday to start work on decoding images of a different galaxy cluster called Abell 2744.

He said: "No one expected something so purely red in the first exposure. It would imply that the galaxy is at redshift 30, which is much, much further than any galaxy that has ever been measured."

A redshift of 30 would mean the light started its journey towards us just 100 million years after the big bang.

The most distant galaxy previously spotted has as redshift of about 13, meaning it was present about 330 million years after the big bang.

James Webb may therefore have spotted a galaxy that was around much earlier, challenging astronomers' understanding of when the first galaxies formed.


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