The James Webb Space Telescope acquires the first direct image of an exoplanet

The James Webb Space Telescope acquires the first direct image of an exoplanet

We go back to talking about the James Webb space telescope (fortunately not for IT security issues) and the extraordinary images and data it manages to capture. One of the latest news concerns the acquisition of adirect image of a exoplanet which, thanks to the potential of the new scientific instrument, allow to overcome the limits of the previous solutions used so far.

The research and characterization of exoplanets it is an important issue both as regards the search for life outside the Solar System, and to understand how the latter may have evolved and to indirectly reconstruct the history of the Earth. We recently wrote about how the JWST has detected carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a exoplanet even if the space telescope is not the only instrument used in this type of research (think of ESO’s ALMA). For the latest discovery of the JWST scientists have focused on HIP 65426 bhere’s what they saw.

jwst exoplanet

The exoplanet observed by the James Webb Space Telescope

In the new study recently published, the scientists used the JWST to begin to understand how much the telescope can be used for direct observation of exoplanets. As explained by Arynn Carter (at the head of the study) thanks to the performance of the new observatory, planets of lower mass can be detected than we were able to do before its advent. In fact, the instruments previously allowed the detection of gas giants larger than Jupiter while now we can also focus on exoplanets with characteristics of Uranus and Neptune (and it is a big leap forward).

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Returning to HIP 65426 bthis exoplanet it has a mass about seven times that of Jupiter and is a relatively celestial body “young” having formed at most 20 million years ago (the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old). The observations of the James Webb space telescope took place between 17 and 30 July and focused on HIP 65426a star with twice the mass of the Sun 350 light years from us in the constellation Centaurus.

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In fact, we already knew of the existence ofexoplanet HIP 65426 b as it was discovered in 2017 thanks to ESO’s VLT. This exoplanet is three times the distance between Neptune and the Sun from its star. JWST he therefore did not discover it, but managed to capture a direct image of it, a rather demanding challenge.

exoplanet jwst

The star is in fact about 10 thousand times brighter than theexoplanet and for this it was necessary to use a coronagraph that blocked most of the light emitted, thus highlighting HIP 65426 b (thanks to NIRCam and MIRI). Scientists chose to detect the light reflected by the planet with different filters and therefore at different wavelengths and, with these existing data and models, it was possible to know with a precision never seen before how much light was emitted by the planet and to define it. some properties.

This was “alone” a dress rehearsal of the potential of the James Webb space telescope in this particular field. As added by Arynn Carter “I think the most exciting thing is that we are just getting started. There are many more images of exoplanets on the way that will shape our general understanding of their physics, chemistry and formation. We may even discover previously unknown planets.”.

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