The James Webb Telescope takes its first-ever direct image of an exoplanet

Hi, HIP 65426 b! This mixture of letters and numbers belongs to an exoplanet with the honor of being the subject of The first direct image of the James Webb Space Telescope of a distant world.

“This is a transformative moment, not only for Webb but also for astronomy in general,” said astronomer Sasha Hinckley of the University of Exeter. Hinckley led an international team of researchers that worked on observing prominent exoplanets.

Before we lose our minds about this, there are a few caveats. Exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) have been photographed live by by other telescopes, and the research highlighted by NASA’s Thursday announcement has not yet gone through the peer-review process, with other scientists checking the information. Well, now you can just scream, “Wow!”

This graphic shows the star HIP 65426 at the top with interior images showing the exoplanet HIP 65426 b in different bands of infrared light, as seen by the James Webb Space Telescope.

NASA/ESA/CSA, Carter (UCSC), ERS 1386 Team, and A. Pagan (STScI)

JWST sees in the infrared, giving it the ability to look far and deep into the universe and spot elusive objects that other telescopes won’t be able to pick up. The image version highlights how HIP 65426 b looks in four different bands of infrared light.

“Getting this image was like digging for treasure in space,” said postdoctoral researcher Arjen Carter of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Carter led the image analysis. Webb is able to obscure starlight to block out the star’s glare and take pictures like this of the elusive exoplanets. Instructively, HIP 65426 b orbits its host star at a distance of 100 times farther from Earth than the Sun, which makes hiding the light a little easier.

You will notice a small white star in each of the pictures of the four planets. This refers to the location of the host star, which has been hidden from the show.

The planet was already known to exist, thanks to the work of a telescope in Chile that discovered it in 2017. Infrared glow of the Earth’s atmosphere. “

An exoplanet is young, only 15-20 million years old. Here on Earth, we live on a planet that is 4.5 billion years old. HIP 65426 b is a gas giant, six to 12 times the mass of Jupiter. Researchers should be able to call its mass more accurately as they work through the data.

The team is in the process of preparing a research paper that will undergo a peer-review process for a pre-publication journal. However, the early results are indeed worth celebrating.

Webb launched in late 2021 and has gone through a lengthy publishing process, and has already provided a variety of images and notes, ranging from glorious clouds to me The discovery of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet outside the solar system. HIP’s 65426 b sights may seem like glowing dots, but they’re just the beginning, a harbinger of a knockout science ahead.