HomeAstronomy & SpaceAstronomyThe first exoplanet image from James Webb Space Telescope revealed

The first exoplanet image from James Webb Space Telescope revealed

University of Exeter astronomers led the effort to capture the first-ever direct image of an exoplanet using the ground-breaking James Webb Space Telescope.

The incredible image depicts HIP65426b, a gas giant about five to ten times the mass of Jupiter that formed 15-20 million years ago.

Professor Sasha Hinkley of the University of Exeter led the observations, which were carried out in collaboration with an international team of researchers.

Professor Hinkley claims “This is a watershed moment not only for Webb, but for astronomy as a whole. With Webb, we can look at the chemistries of these planets using a whole new set of physics.”

The planet was discovered in 2017 by astronomers using the SPHERE instrument on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. Previous images of the planet were created using short infrared wavelengths of light and covered only a relatively narrow range of the planet’s overall emission.

Most exoplanets have only been discovered through indirect methods, such as the transit method, in which some of the host star’s light is blocked by a planet passing in front. Direct imaging of exoplanets, on the other hand, has proven more difficult because the host stars around which the planets orbit are much brighter, in this case several thousand to more than ten thousand times brighter.

The researchers used mid- and thermal-infrared light to create the new image, revealing new details that ground-based telescopes would not be able to collect due to the intrinsic infrared glow of the Earth’s atmosphere. Details about the chemical composition of the planet’s atmosphere, which appears red due to silicate minerals forming fine dust in the atmosphere, are included.

The team believes that the image demonstrates how the James Webb Telescope’s powerful infrared gaze can capture more worlds beyond our solar system, paving the way for future observations that will reveal more information about exoplanetary systems than ever before.

Because the planet is about 100 times farther away from its host star than Earth is from the Sun, Webb can distinguish the planet from the star in the image. JWST’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) both have coronagraphs, which are small masks that block out starlight, allowing Webb to take direct images of exoplanets like this one.

“It was really impressive how well the JWST coronagraphs suppressed the host star’s light,” Hinkley said.


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