The James Webb telescope takes its first image of a planet outside the Solar System

Astronomers have used the James Webb Space Telescope for the first time to take a direct image of a planet outside the Solar System, NASA has reported. The captured exoplanet is a gas giant, meaning it has no rocky surface and could not be habitable. The image, viewed through four different light filters, shows how James Webb’s infrared gaze can easily capture worlds beyond the Solar System, pointing the way to future observations that will reveal more information about exoplanets than ever before. The exoplanet in Webb’s image, called HIP 65426 b, is between six and twelve times the mass of Jupiter, and these observations could help shrink it down even further. It is between 15 and 20 million years old, for the 4,500 million years of the Earth. Astronomers discovered the planet in 2017 using the SPHERE instrument on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and imaged it using short infrared wavelengths of light. Webb’s view, at longer infrared wavelengths, reveals new details that ground-based telescopes could not detect due to the intrinsic infrared glow of Earth’s atmosphere. James Webb Space Telescope Offers Unprecedented View of Jupiter Since HIP 65426 b is about 100 times farther from its host star than Earth is from the Sun, it is far enough from the star that Webb can easily separate the planet from the star in the picture “This is a transformative moment, not just for Webb but for astronomy in general,” said Sasha Hinkley, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Exeter in the UK, who led these internationally collaborative observations. A Spaniard in charge of the operations of the lunar module of the Artemis Webb mission is an international mission led by NASA in collaboration with its partners, the ESA (European Space Agency) and the CSA (Canadian Space Agency). While this isn’t the first direct image of an exoplanet taken from space (the Hubble Space Telescope has captured direct images of exoplanets before), HIP 65426 b points the way forward for Webb’s exoplanet exploration.