James Webb telescope captures first direct image of exoplanet

(ORDO NEWS) — An international team of researchers took the first-ever detailed image of an exoplanet using the James Webb Space Telescope. The observations were led by Professor Sasha Hinckley of the University of Exeter.

The image shows the gas giant HIP65426b, whose mass is about 5-10 times that of Jupiter. The planet is about 15-20 million years old.

Astronomers first discovered the planet in 2017 using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile.

Back then, images of the planet were taken using short infrared wavelengths of light, which covered a relatively narrow range of the planet’s total radiation.

The presence of most exoplanets has only been confirmed using indirect methods, such as the transit method, in which some of the parent star’s light is blocked by a planet passing in front of the star.

Getting direct images of exoplanets has proven to be more of a challenge because the stars the planets orbit around are much brighter.

Because HIP65426b is about 100 times farther from its parent star than Earth is from the Sun, Webb was able to separate the planet from the star in the image.

The Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and the Mid Infrared Instrument (MIRI) are equipped with coronagraphs that allow Webb to take direct pictures of exoplanets.

“This is a watershed moment not only for Webb, but for astronomy in general.

With the James Webb telescope, we can use a whole new set of methods to study the chemical composition of the planets,” said Professor Sasha Hinckley.

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