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James Webb telescope discovers water in planetary system near our own

Astronomers say they've discovered water vapor near an old star with a planet-creating disk. No planets were found to be forming near its inner disk.
Technicians lift the mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope using a crane.
Posted at 6:02 PM, Jul 27, 2023

Astronomers have published findings after detecting the presence of water vapor, moving around a nearby star. 

The findings were published in the journal Nature, and tell how researchers found that planets which appeared to be forming around the star could possibly carry the ability to support life in the future. 

The planetary system called PDS 70 is fairly young and sits about 370 light-years away from our own. A star at the center of it is quite old, at around 5.4 million years of age. 

The star's temperature runs cooler than our sun, and has two gas giant planets orbiting it.

Asteroid Dimorphos.

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Astronomers used the James Webb telescope's mid-infrared capabilities to detect what has been called the "signature" of water vapor swirling inside of the inner disk of the system. Researchers say the inner disk could see small rocky planets, like the planets in our solar system, form.

Lead study author Giulia Perotti said, "We've seen water in other disks, but not so close in and in a system where planets are currently assembling. We couldn't make this type of measurement before Webb." 


Scientists said that dust shielding, along with gas and dust replenishment from the outer disk orbiting the star could also play a part in holding what they're calling the "water reservoir" together. 

Study coauthor Thomas Henning said, "This discovery is extremely exciting, as it probes the region where rocky planets similar to Earth typically form."