‘Space treasure’: Webb captures first direct image of an exoplanet
Notably, exoplanets have been directly imaged by other telescopes before, and the studies highlighted in NASA’s Thursday announcement have not gone through the peer-review process, where other scientists scrutinize the information.
JWST observes in infrared light, which gives it the ability to peer into the far reaches and depths of the universe and discover elusive objects that other telescopes cannot. The images released this time highlight what HIP 65426 b looks like in four different bands of infrared light.
“Getting this image felt like digging for treasure in space,” said Aarynn Carter, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who led the image analysis effort. Webb was able to mask out starlight to block out the star’s glare and capture images of elusive exoplanets like this one. HIP 65426 b orbits its host star 100 times the distance from Earth to the sun, which helps mask the light.
You’ll notice a small white star in each of the four planet pictures. This marks the location of the primary star, which has been hidden from view. The planet was already known to exist, thanks to work by a Chilean telescope that discovered it in 2017. “Webb’s views, at longer infrared wavelengths, reveal new details that cannot be detected by ground-based telescopes because of the inherent infrared brilliance of Earth’s atmosphere,”NASASay.
The exoplanet is a young planet, only 15 to 20 million years old. On Earth, we live on a planet that is 4.5 billion years old. HIP 65426 b is a gas giant planet 6 to 12 times the mass of Jupiter. When researchers process this data, they should be able to more accurately determine its quality.
The team is writing a research paper that will go through a journal’s peer-review process before publication. However, the early results are already cause for celebration.
Launching in late 2021, Webb has gone through a long deployment process and has already provided images and observations of everything from glorious nebulae to the discovery of carbon dioxide in the atmospheres of exoplanets. Visions of HIP 65426 b may look like glowing blobs, but they’re just the beginning, heralding the rocky science to come.