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How The James Webb Telescope Will Study A Lava-Covered Super-Earth
Launched in December 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s most powerful telescope and is set to make huge waves in the study of astronomy. Not only will it study galaxies and black holes, but it will also focus on exoplanets, which is the term used for planets outside of the Earth’s solar system.
Webb's exoplanet studies will include some strange, wild planets, including a lava-covered "super-Earth" called 55 Cancri e. The planet is larger than Earth, much closer to its star, and so hot on the surface, in fact, that the temperatures are high enough to melt rock, which makes researchers think the planet must be covered in oceans of lava.
On 55 Cancri e, there is something odd going on, however, as readings using the Spitzer Space Telescope showed the hottest part of the planet doesn't seem to line up with the part facing its star. To discover why this may be, James Webb will look closely at the planet using its Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI).