JWST’s First Direct Image of Exoplanet Released

Sep 7, 2022 | Daily Space, Exoplanets, JWST

JWST’s First Direct Image of Exoplanet Released
IMAGE: This image shows the exoplanet HIP 65426 b in different bands of infrared light, as seen from the James Webb Space Telescope: purple shows the NIRCam instrument’s view at 3.00 micrometers, blue shows the NIRCam instrument’s view at 4.44 micrometers, yellow shows the MIRI instrument’s view at 11.4 micrometers, and red shows the MIRI instrument’s view at 15.5 micrometers. CREDIT: NASA/ESA/CSA, A Carter (UCSC), the ERS 1386 team, and A. Pagan (STScI)

The European Space Agency (ESA) released a set of images that reveal a gas giant exoplanet in four different colors of infrared light.

The planet is HIP 65426 b, a world about six to eight times the mass of Jupiter. HIP 65426 b is about 100 times farther from its host star than we are from our Sun. This distance allows the planet to be well separated on the sky, but at that distance, it doesn’t have a lot of light to reflect: the gas giant is 10,000 times fainter than its star.

While the planet only resolves as a blob of light, this set of images demonstrates JWST can directly image planets. Researcher Aarynn Carter notes: Obtaining this image felt like digging for space treasure. I think what’s most exciting is that we’ve only just begun. There are many more images of exoplanets to come that will shape our overall understanding of their physics, chemistry, and formation. We may even discover previously unknown planets, too.

A paper on this image and its results is forthcoming.

More Information

ESA press release

NASA’s Webb Takes Its First-Ever Direct Image of Distant World (NASA)

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