The James Webb Telescope continues to prepare for the first observations in deep space. When ready, its infrared capabilities will also allow it to focus on objects entering our solar system as well as the search for alien civilizations or at least signs of life on distant exoplanets.
The new observatory will be able to track interstellar objects
The operating time of the telescope will be divided into several categories. Part of the time will be devoted to scientists involved in the development of the observatory, while most of the time will be devoted to the “general observing program” in which scientists from all over the world will be able to use the telescope.
However, the James Webb telescope can be turned to at the last minute if, for example, something interesting suddenly appears under the radar – like alien objects.
Two such intruders have already been discovered: an object called “Oumuamua” in 2017 and an object called 21/Borisov in 2019.
The latter was a comet almost a thousand meters wide, and the former still raises questions. Its cigar-shaped shape caused confusion, and some even suggested that it could be an extraterrestrial spacecraft.
Because these objects caught astronomers by surprise, we know very little about them, hence the interest in the James Webb telescope.
The sensitivity and power of the observatory will provide an unprecedented opportunity to study the chemical composition of these interstellar guests and learn much more about their nature and the conditions under which they formed.
James Webb will also search for biosignatures of alien life
The new James Webb Space Telescope, which is now completing instrument calibration, will be able to study planets orbiting distant stars and even detect life on them by detecting emissions of chlorofluorocarbons in exoplanets’ atmospheres.
Chlorofluorocarbons are produced on an industrial scale on Earth but if the telescope detects powerful greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere of exoplanets, then, according to scientists, it will be possible to talk about the discovery of alien life.
According to scientists, plant life can be detected in the infrared range due to the mechanism of chlorophyll, which absorbs visible light but lights up in infrared. Therefore, if scientists find chlorophyll in a distant world, the planet will have a visible ‘red edge‘, and plant life would probably exist there.
Also, the presence of life on a distant planet can indicate the level of atmospheric pollution. If intelligent life exists somewhere, it can easily detect us by the chemicals that pollute our planet’s atmosphere.
For example, we are “given away” by chemicals that are used in technology as refrigerants and substances that make up cleaning products. If humans did not exist, these chemicals would not be present on our planet.
If scientists find the same unnatural compounds in the atmosphere of planets, James Webb might set the beginning of the discovery of an alien civilization.
Based on all this, in order to find signs of life, it will be enough for astronomers to have a photograph of a distant planet, even one pixel in size. Today, even such a tiny picture can tell a lot about the properties of the atmosphere.
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• Bergan, B. (2022, February 23). Aliens! One “wasteful” clue may reveal them to Webb Telescope. Interesting Engineering.
• Johnston, S. A. (2022, February 21). James Webb might be able to detect other civilizations by their air pollution. Universe Today.
• Scott Alan Johnston, U. T. (n.d.). The most powerful space telescope ever might detect alien life. here’s how. ScienceAlert.
• Tangermann, V. (2022, February 22). Scientists already plotting how James Webb could detect alien civilizations. Futurism.