“A space treasure”: The James Webb telescope takes its first direct image of an exoplanet

Launched last Christmas, the space telescope james webb is facing new firsts. This time it has been his first direct image of a planet outside the Solar Systemand the chosen one has been HIP65426ba gas giant and therefore not habitable.

This exoplanet was discovered in 2017, it has between six and twelve times the mass of Jupiter and, if it is compared with the age of the Earth, 4,500 million years, it can be said that is young, between 15 and 20 million years.

Although it had already been observed by the Very Large Telescope of the Central European Observatory (ESO) in Chile, the images provided by four of the James Webb’s instruments reveal new details that could not be detected by telescopes on the ground.

This is “a transformative moment, not just for the Webb but for astronomy in general”in the words of sasha hinkley from the University of Exeter, UK, who led the observations.

The exoplanet is about a hundred times farther from its host star than Earth is from the Sun.which allows both bodies to be clearly separated by the new telescope, born from the collaboration of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

In each image, the exoplanet appears as a patch of light with a slightly different shapedue to the peculiarities of the telescope’s optical system and how it translates light through the different optical sensors, explained the ESA in a statement.

“Getting this image was like searching for space treasure”explained Aarynn Carterfrom the University of California (USA), who directed the analysis of the images.

The scientist, quoted by NASA, said that, at first, all she could see was the light from the star, “but with careful image processing, I was able to remove it and discover the planet.” She also considered that there are “many more images” to come that “will shape our understanding” of the physics, chemistry and formation of exoplanets.

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