Researchers to use JWST to find life on exoplanets

Researchers to use JWST to find life on exoplanets

Following the recent discovery of the more than half a dozen earth-sized planets around a star forty light years away, NASA researchers are looking to the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to determine if any of these exoplanets could possibly support any type of life.

Around a couple of weeks ago, NASA announced the discovery of seven earth-sized planets around the TRAPPIST-1 star. Researchers believe that some of these stars could be able to support life.

Doug Hudgins, an exoplanet sientist at NASA, said, "If these planets have atmospheres, the James Webb Space Telescope will be the key to unlocking their secrets. In the meantime, NASA's missions like Spitzer, Hubble, and Kepler are following up on these planets."

Hannah Wakeford, a postdoctoral researcher at the agency's Greenbelt, Maryland-based Goddard Space Flight Center, said, "These are the best Earth-sized planets for the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize, perhaps for its whole lifetime.

The researchers agree that search for a potentially life-supporting planet needs to determine more than just the size of a planet and its distance from its host star.

JWST, which is scheduled to be launched in 2018, will use a method of analyzing light called spectroscopy to identify its chemical biomarkers, such as ozone and methane, to determine the atmospheric components of alien worlds.