NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has observed a distant planet outside the solar system, which is the closest look yet at the mysterious world, the agency said on Wednesday, Trend reports citing Xinhua.
The planet, called GJ 1214 b, is too hot to harbor liquid-water oceans, but water in vaporized form still could be a major part of its atmosphere, according to NASA.
In addition to making the standard observation, the research team took a novel approach -- they tracked GJ 1214 b through nearly its entire orbit around the star, capturing the host star's light that has filtered through the planet's atmosphere.
Using Webb's Mid-Infrared Instrument, the research team was able to create a kind of "heat map" of the planet as it orbited the star. The heat map revealed both its day and night sides, unveiling details of the atmosphere's composition, according to NASA.
"The planet is totally blanketed by some sort of haze or cloud layer," said Eliza Kempton, a researcher at the University of Maryland and lead author of a new paper on the planet, published in Nature.
"The atmosphere just remained totally hidden from us until this observation," she said, adding that if indeed water-rich, the planet could have been a "water world," with large amounts of watery and icy material at the time of its formation.