Exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system, are gas giants about 6 to 12 times the mass of Jupiter. Called HIP 65426 b, the planet is about 15 to 20 million years old and is only a baby planet compared to cEarth, which is 4.5 billion years old.
The distance from Earth is about 385 light years.
The planet can be seen in four different bands of infrared imaged by various Webb instruments. Webb sees the universe in infrared light, invisible to the human eye, making it the perfect space observatory to reveal details of distant worlds.
“This is a transformative moment, not only for the web, but for astronomy in general,” said Sasha Hinckley, associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Exeter, UK, in a statement.
Hinckley led the observations in an international collaboration.
The exoplanet was first discovered in 2017 using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope and its SPHERE instrument in Chile. The instrument captured images of the planet in short-wave infrared, but Webb’s ability to observe long-wave infrared can shed light on new details.
Scientists are analyzing data from Webb’s HIP 65426b, and future research will be submitted to the journal for peer review.
Webb and his device were able to separate the planet from the star because the exoplanet is about 100 times farther from its star than the Earth is from the Sun. Some of Webb’s instruments are armed with coronagraphs, or masks that can block starlight, allowing telescopes to capture direct images of exoplanets.
Stars are much brighter than planets, and in this case HIP 65426 b is more than 10,000 times fainter than its star in near-infrared light.
“Obtaining this image was like digging up a cosmic treasure,” said Aarynn Carter, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz and lead analysis of the image, in a statement. increase. “At first we could only see the light from the stars, but with careful image processing, we were able to remove that light and reveal the planets.”
And the Space Observatory just started scientific observations this summer.
“The most exciting thing is that we are just getting started,” Carter said. “More images of exoplanets will emerge that will shape our overall understanding of the physics, chemistry and formation of exoplanets. Previously unknown planets may also be discovered.”