The James Webb Space Telescope has captured a direct image of a planet orbiting a distant star outside of our solar system, just two months after it began its operations.
The giant gas planet is seen orbiting a star, HIP 65426, 385 light-years away from Earth. The image was photographed using a Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI).
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
An astronomer at the University of Exeter in the UK, Sasha Hinkley, says “This is a transformative moment, not only for Webb but also for astronomy generally”.
The planet had already been discovered in 2017 through a Very Large Telescope in Chile, while the Webb telescope isn’t designed for such exoplanet discoveries. These planets are difficult to capture since they’re fainter than the star they orbit. HIP 65426 b was captured because of being very far away from its parent star and 12 times the size of Jupiter.
Aarynn Carter, the astronomer at the University of California, led the analysis of the images and said, “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.”
Using four different filters, scientists managed to obtain images that reveal the planet as a small blob of light. The planet seems to be only 15 to 20 million years old and doesn’t contain any life due to its gaseous environment, according to NASA’s blog.