Compared to some of the other images released today, this chart may seem kind of … blah. But in a lot of ways this is the most exciting thing released today by the Webb team.
This is Webb’s instruments looking at an exoplanet orbiting a star 1,150 light years away, and telling us about the atmosphere of that individual planet. WASP 96-b is a gas giant, slightly larger (though less massive) than Jupiter. It orbits close to its star, making it much hotter than any of the planets in our own system.
On June 21, Webb turned both its Near-Infrared Imager and spectrograph on the WASP-96 system for 6.4 hours, watching as the planet transited across the face of the star. From that data it produced a curve that shows the components of the planet’s atmosphere. That atmosphere turns out to include water … well, steam, considering how beyond-boiling hot this place is.
But this is just a sampler of many planetary observations to come.