(WFLA) — The James Webb Space Telescope has found its first exoplanet, NASA confirmed Wednesday.
An exoplanet is a planet that orbits another star, NASA said. The planet, classified as LHS 475 b, is almost exactly the same size as Earth, according to a research team led by Kevin Stevenson and Jacob Lustig-Yaeger.
NASA said its Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) hinted at the planet’s existence, which caused the team to focus on the planet.
“There is no question that the planet is there. Webb’s pristine data validate it,” said Lustig-Yaeger. “The fact that it is also a small, rocky planet is impressive for the observatory,” Stevenson added.
NASA said the Webb telescope is the only operating telescope capable of characterizing the atmospheres of Earth-sized exoplanets. Researchers said they do not know if the planet has an atmosphere.
“The observatory’s data are beautiful,” said Erin May, also of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. “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.”
Webb also revealed that the planet is a few hundred degrees warmer than Earth. Researchers said if clouds are detected, the planet could be more like Venus, which has a carbon dioxide atmosphere and is perpetually shrouded in thick clouds.
NASA said that researchers also confirmed that the planet completes an orbit around a red dwarf star in just two days.
“Although LHS 475 b is closer to its star than any planet in our solar system, its red dwarf star is less than half the temperature of the Sun, so the researchers project it still could have an atmosphere,” NASA said in a release.
NASA said the planet is 41 light years away, constellation Octans.
“With this telescope, rocky exoplanets are the new frontier,” Lustig-Yaeger said.