NASA has announced that researchers have discovered a new Earth-like exoplanet using the James Webb Space Telescope, marking the telescope’s first discovery of an exoplanet. The telescope was launched in December 2021.
The newly discovered planet is called LHA 475 b, and NASA says it’s “almost exactly the same size as our own,” measuring to 99% of Earth’s diameter. Kevin Stevenson and Jacob Lustig-Yaeger of Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland made the discovery.
“There is no question that the planet is there. Webb’s pristine data validate it,” Lustig-Yaeger said.
“The fact that it is also a small, rocky planet is impressive for the observatory,” Stevenson added.
NASA’s Mark Clampin said this discovery could “open the door to many future possibilities for studying rocky planet atmospheres” within the visibility of the Webb telescope.
“Webb is bringing us closer and closer to a new understanding of Earth-like worlds outside our solar system, and the mission is only just getting started,” Clampin said.
Is there life on this new planet, LHA 475 b? It’s much too soon to say, as researchers don’t even know yet if it has an atmosphere. “The telescope is so sensitive that it can easily detect a range of molecules, but we can’t yet make any definitive conclusions about the planet’s atmosphere,” Johns Hopkins University’s Erin May said.
The planet is a “few hundred degrees” warmer than Earth, researchers said. If researchers find clouds around it, then it could be more similar to Venus, which has a carbon dioxide atmosphere.
Check out NASA’s full writeup to learn more about the new exoplanet.