Astronomers have used the James Webb Space Telescope for the first time to take a picture of a planet outside our solar system. One of the researchers said, “It felt like getting this picture was like searching for a treasure in space.”
The extrasolar planet, better known by the embarrassing name HIP 65426 b, was actually discovered in 2017 using the Very Large Telescope in Chile, one of the most advanced telescopes on Earth. The mass of the celestial body is six to twelve times that of Jupiter, making life impossible to exist, and it is about 385 light-years from Earth, roughly in our cosmic backyard.
Pictures of the planet were also taken with the Very Large Telescope. But they are different from the recordings James Webb. The images were then created using short infrared waves of light.
However, the images taken by James Webb were taken at wavelengths longer than infrared, revealing new details that cannot be seen by telescopes on Earth. After all, the infrared glow of our atmosphere would throw a wrench in the works.
The astronomers who captured the new image are still analyzing the data and preparing an academic paper. But while there is no scientific publication yet, they are already talking about “a transformative moment, not just for Webb, but for astronomy in general.” Those are the words of Sasha Hinckley, the British physicist who is leading the study.
Scientists chose this planet because it is about 100 times farther from its star than Earth is from the Sun. This makes it easier to separate the light from the star from the light from the planet.
James Webb is very capable of separating this light, because the telescope is equipped with so-called voids, which are instruments that can block starlight. This would make it easier to take such pictures.
“It was really impressive how Tony Graf Webb managed to stifle the guest star’s light,” Hinckley said. Scitechdaily. “It felt like getting this picture was like digging for a treasure in space,” added Aryn Carter, the California researcher who led the analysis of the images.
It is very difficult to take pictures of the exoplanets, although this first born James Webb is not the first at all. After all, the star in the solar system is thousands of times brighter than the planet. For example, HIP 65426 b is 10,000 times less bright than a star in the near-infrared spectrum, and several thousand times less bright in the infrared spectrum.
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