The James Webb telescope takes its first direct image of a planet outside the Solar System

Launched last Christmas, the space telescope james webb is achieving new challenges. This time it was his first direct image of a planet outside the Solar System, and the chosen one was HIP 65426 b, a gas giant and, therefore, not habitable. This exoplanet was discovered in 2017, it has between six and twelve times the mass of Jupiter and, if compared to the age of the Earth – 4,500 million years – it can be said that it is young. It is between 15 and 20 million years old.

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Although it had already been observed by the Very Large Telescope of the Central European Observatory (ESO) in Chile, the images provided by four of the James Webb's instruments reveal new details that could not be captured by telescopes on the ground.

Talk about out of this world! This is Webb's first direct image of a planet outside of our solar system, and it hints at Webb's future possibilities for studying distant worlds: https://t.co/ITcl6RItLa

Not what you expected? Let's walk through the details👇 pic.twitter.com/bCgzW0dcUE

— NASA Webb Telescope (@NASAWebb) September 1, 2022

This is "a transformative moment, not just for Webb but for astronomy in general," in the words of Sasha Hinkley of the University of Exeter, UK, who led the observations. The finding "shows the future possibilities of Webb to study distant worlds," they indicate from the Twitter account of the NASA telescope.

The gaseous planet is about a hundred times farther from its host star than Earth is from the Sun, which allows both bodies to be clearly separated by the new telescope, born from the collaboration of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

In each image, the exoplanet appears as a patch of light with a slightly different shape, due to the peculiarities of the telescope's optical system and how it translates light through the different optical sensors, ESA explained in a statement.

"Getting this image was like searching for space treasure," explained Aarynn Carter of the University of California, who led the analysis of the images. “Why don't they look like images of our solar system captured by Juno or Cassini? Space is big and exoplanets are small, and they are very far from us! Do not forget that we did not get our first detailed look at Pluto until 2015 ”, they also explain from the NASA account.

Why don't these look like images of our solar system captured by Juno or Cassini? Space is big and exoplanets are small — and far away from us! Don't forget, we didn't get our first detailed look at Pluto until 2015 when New Horizons visited. pic.twitter.com/En3zsZa0Wc

— NASA Webb Telescope (@NASAWebb) September 1, 2022

The scientist, quoted by NASA, said that, at first, all she could see was the light from the star, "but with careful image processing, I was able to remove it and discover the planet." In addition, she considered that there are "many more images" to come that "will shape our understanding" of the physics, chemistry and formation of exoplanets.



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