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22 september, 2022
Astronomers have used NASA's James Webb Space Telescope for the first time to take pictures of a planet outside the solar system. The exoplanet is a gas giant, which means it has no rocky surface and could not be habitable.
The new image, which uses four different light filters, demonstrates the telescope's ability to observe planets outside the solar system, providing more information about exoplanets than ever before.
The space telescope has captured the exoplanet HIP 65426 b, which is 6-12 times the mass of Jupiter. According to scientists, the planet is significantly younger than Earth. While our planet is about 4.5 billion years old, HIP 65426 b is only 15-20 million years old. The planet was first discovered in 2017 using the SPHERE instrument on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile.
HIP 65426 b is about 100 times farther away from its host star than Earth is from the Sun, making it difficult to separate the planet from the star in the image. Aarynn Carter, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who led the analysis of the images said:
Obtaining this image felt like digging for space treasure. 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.
NASA notes that getting direct pictures of the planets is challenging because the stars are much brighter than the planets. Exoplanet HIP 65426 b is more than 10,000 times dimmer than its host star in the near-infrared and several thousand times dimmer in the mid-infrared.
The planet in the image looks like a slightly differently shaped clump of light because of the nature of the Webb optical system and the way it transmits light through different optical filters.
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