It’s clear that over the past few months NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is doing exactly what it set out to do. As its creators had hoped, the billion-dollar machine perfectly ‘opens up the universe’, revealing cosmic light we can’t see with our eyes – and the results Its greatness makes even the most experienced astronomer not feel alive.
Because of this gilded telescope, Twitter once went crazy for a murky red dot. For 48 hours, people around the world have been staring at a galaxy that was born shortly after the birth of time. It seems that, thanks to JWST’s technological prowess, humanity is united on a strict basis. But here’s the thing.
Amid personal astonishment, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology warn that we should consider an important scientific consequence of having superhero telescopes.
If JWST is like an upgrade from 0 to 100, they wonder, is it possible that our scientific models need a 0 to 100 reboot too? Are the datasets that scientists have used for decades just not be able to match the power of the device and thus fail to reveal what it is trying to tell us?
And, according to a new study she co-authored, published Thursday in the journal Nature Astronomy, the answer is yes.
“The data we get from JWST is going to be amazing, but… Our knowledge will be limited if our models are not qualitatively matched,” Clara Sousa-Silva, a quantum chemist at the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian.
In particular, this paper suggests that some of the light analysis tools that scientists commonly use to understand exoplanet atmospheres are not fully equipped to process the light data specifically from the JWST. In the long run, such an obstacle could affect JWST’s biggest mission: the hunt for alien life.
“Currently, the model we use to decode spectral information is not up to par with the accuracy and quality of the data,” said Prajwal Niraula, a PhD student in the department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. data that we have from the James Webb Telescope. from MIT and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “We have to improve our game.”
Here’s one way to think about the puzzle. Imagine pairing the newest and most powerful Xbox console with the first iteration of a TV. Xbox will try to give the TV beautiful, colorful, high-resolution graphics that are great for us to watch – but the TV won’t be able to compute anything.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the TV exploded. But the thing is, you won’t know what Xbox is trying to offer unless you have an equally high-definition TV. Similarly, in the exoplanet discovery circuit, scientists feed a flurry of light or photon data from deep space into “fuzzy” test models. Opacity measures how easily photons pass through a material and varies depending on factors such as the wavelength of light, temperature, and pressure of the material.
- NASA’s Webb Space Telescope May Require Improved Planetary Models
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