The James Webb Space Telescope images a planet beyond our solar system

The James Webb Space Telescope (JSWT) recently captured its first-ever image of a planet outside our solar system.

On Thursday, NASA announced that the telescope had taken a direct image of an “exoplanet” called HIP 65426 b, which orbits another star about 350 light-years away.

The planet is not a rocky world like Earth or Mars, but a gas giant that is about six to 12 times the mass of Jupiter. The James Webb Space Telescope was able to image the planet through various filters of infrared light while blocking light from its parent star.

Capturing images of exoplanets is difficult because the stars shine much brighter than the planets orbiting them, making them harder to see. However, the space telescope captured the image, thanks in part to the fact that the exoplanet is relatively far from its parent sun.

“Since HIP 65426 b is about 100 times farther from its host star than Earth is from the Sun, it is far enough from the star that Webb could easily separate the planet from the star on the picture,” NASA said.

Aarynn Carter, one of the astronomers on the team that processed the image, said the JWST took the photos on July 17 and 30. “We performed this analysis using seven different filters, creating an infrared rainbow of images of this exoplanet!” he wrote in a Tweeter. “In each filter, HIP 65426 b appears as a differently shaped ‘droplet’ of light, due to the unique influences of JWST’s optical systems.”

Pictures of the planet

His team also published a paper that says “these observations demonstrate that JWST exceeds its predicted rated performance by up to a factor of 10.”

This is not the first time that a telescope has captured images of exoplanets. In 2004, the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile captured a faint image of another planet about five times larger than Jupiter orbiting a star 230 light-years away.

The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope continues to capture images of exoplanets. In fact, he discovered HIP 65426 b in 2017. However, the James Webb Space Telescope promises to be much better at imaging worlds outside our solar system.

NASA noted, “Webb’s view, at longer infrared wavelengths, reveals new details that ground-based telescopes could not detect due to the intrinsic infrared glow of Earth’s atmosphere.”

Carter added that the JWST should also be able to detect lower-mass exoplanets. “Before JWST, we were mostly limited to detections of super-Jupiters, but for the best targets we can now directly image exo-Uranus/Neptunes for the first time,” he said. tweeted.

In July, NASA also revealed that the JWST had observed a planet called WASP-96b, a gas giant located about 1,150 light-years away. But the space telescope did not take a direct image of the planet. Instead, it captured a “spectrum” of WASP-96b, which can be used to infer a planet’s atmospheric composition.

Arline J. Mercier