James Webb Discovery - First Direct Image of Exoplanet - HIP 65426 b

September 01, 2022

Imaging an exoplanet 385 light years away is no small feat but James Webb Telescope with its state-of-the-art capabilities captured a direct image of an exoplanet called HIP 65426 b that far away. Discovered on 6 July 2017 by the SPHERE consortium, HIP 65426 b is a super Jupiter exoplanet orbiting the star HIP 65426.

For the first time, astronomers have used NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to take a direct image of a planet outside our solar system. The exoplanet is a gas giant, meaning it has no rocky surface and could not support life. The image, as seen through four different light filters, shows how Webb’s powerful infrared gaze can easily capture worlds beyond our solar system, pointing the way to future observations that will reveal more information than ever before about exoplanets.

James Webb Telescope's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) used tiny masks called coronagraphs to block out starlight, enabling Webb to take direct image of this exoplanet. As HIP 65426 b is about 100 times farther from its host star compared to earth's distance from sun, it helped Webb to easily separate the planet from the star during observations. Taking direct images of exoplanets is challenging because stars are so much brighter than planets. The HIP 65426 b planet is more than 10,000 times fainter than its host star in the near-infrared, and a few thousand times fainter in the mid-infrared. In each filter image, the planet appears as a slightly differently shaped blob of light. That is because of the particulars of Webb’s optical system and how it translates light through the different optics.

Source/Credit - NASA