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The James Webb Telescope Has Already Discovered 'the Unambiguous Signature of Water' on Another World

 Source - NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured the distinct signature of water, along with evidence for clouds and haze, in the atmosphere surrounding a hot, puffy gas giant planet orbiting a distant Sun-like star.

The observation, which reveals the presence of specific gas molecules based on tiny decreases in the brightness of precise colors of light, is the most detailed of its kind to date, demonstrating Webb’s unprecedented ability to analyze atmospheres hundreds of light-years away.

While the Hubble Space Telescope has analyzed numerous exoplanet atmospheres over the past two decades, capturing the first clear detection of water in 2013, Webb’s immediate and more detailed observation marks a giant leap forward in the quest to characterize potentially habitable planets beyond Earth.

Talk about making a great first impression. The James Webb's images have been made public for less than 24 hours, and already it's found an exoplanet with an undeniable presence of water as well as possible clouds and haze orbiting a sun-like star? This is an incomparable achievement in the annals of rookie seasons. The space telescope equivalent of Orson Welles making Citizen Kane at the age of 25 or Tiger Woods lapping the field at Pebble Beach fresh out of Stanford.

I'm not sure it's possible to overstate how historic this moment this is in the development of the human race. Not to put to fine a point on it, but short of finding proof of alien life, or a photo of actual heaven, I can't think of anything more significant than finding definitive proof of the presence of water on an exoplanet. Because unless my high school science classes and every Sci-Fi movie I've ever watched were lying to me, not only is water necessary to create carbon-based life, it's essential if we're ever going to explore and colonize space. If and when Elon Musk gets us to Mars, we're either going to need Uncle Owen-style moisture evaporators or bring our own supply. Which is unsustainable. 

So for all intents and purposes, it's possible that the James Webb just collected the first data on the distant future of our race. The equivalent of seeing your new home in a real estate listing, but on a grand, cosmic scale. 

And before you say, "Well didn't NASA say Hubble already detect this?" there's no comparison. Here's the difference in the level of the detail between the two scopes:

The earlier, Hubble one is like seeing a ship on the horizon. The Webb is like being able to see the pool well enough to tell the fake bewbs from the real ones. Which might be an unfortunate way to phrase it given the monumental nature of this moment in our species' inevitable journey into space, but I'm in awe right now and can't be held responsible for my word choice. They should've sent a poet.

So with that, since words are failing me, here are more images. Our species is taking our first steps into the great unknown, and it's positively breathtaking.

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We truly do stand on the shoulders of giants. What a time to be human.