James Webb Space Telescope Snaps First Direct Image Of An Exoplanet

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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is at it again. This time the space observatory has chronicled its first-ever direct image of an exoplanet. The image is yet another demonstration of James Webb’s cutting-edge technology that could unravel the mysteries of the universe by observing different worlds orbiting distant stars.

 
James Webb Space Telescope Snaps First Direct Image Of An Exoplanet

The new image shows the exoplanet HIP 65426 b, which is said to be at a nascent stage of its life. The exoplanet is around six to 12 times the mass of gas giant Jupiter and is situated 363 light-years away in the constellation Centaurus.

Orbiting Host Star From 100 AU

In 2017, the exoplanet was discovered by astronomers with the help of the SPHERE instrument aboard the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. The telescope’s new observation will enable space researchers to see it without any interfering glow emanating from our planet’s atmosphere.

"This is a transformative moment, not only for Webb but also for astronomy generally," said observation leader Sasha Hinkley, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Exeter.

HIP 65426 b orbits its host star from a distance thrice the size of the distance between the Sun and Neptune. In simpler words, it is 100 times the distance between the Sun and our planet.

It also suggests that the James Webb Space Telescope can observe the planet in high detail, as per NASA. The glow emanating from the host stars usually comes in between the exoplanet’s observation.

Astronomers Can’t Keep Calm

"Obtaining this image felt like digging for space treasure," said the leader of the project Aarynn Carter, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "At first all I could see was light from the star, but with careful image processing I was able to remove that light and uncover the planet."

Astronomers are currently collecting data for a paper. But they are already very excited about the future observations that the James Webb Space Telescope will provide.

"I think what’s most exciting is that we’ve only just begun," Carter noted. "There are many more images of exoplanets to come that will shape our overall understanding of their physics, chemistry, and formation." It suggests that "we may even discover previously unknown planets, too," he added.

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