The mind-blowing James Webb Telescope has done it again. Just when we thought the telescope couldn’t get any more out-of-this-world, it’s proved once again that science will always be a pretty cool thing. Now, NASA has released new images thanks to the telescope that reveals a distant planet. In addition, these pics are the telescope’s first snaps of a world outside Earth’s Solar System.
However, photographing distant planets may not be as easy as you might think. In fact, it’s incredibly challenging since light from their host star will impact the images.
To combat this problem, scientists fitted the James Webb Space Telescope with instruments called coronographs that help block starlight.
With this deep space imaging technology, the space agency could recently take photos of HIP 65426 b, an exoplanet six to 12 times the size of Jupiter.
“Obtaining this image felt like digging for space treasure,” said Aarynn Carte, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Santa Cruz and leader of the team that studied the photos.
NASA on capturing wild new image: ‘Felt like digging for space treasure’
In addition to capturing the planet on film, NASA has also concluded that HIP 65426 b is ideal for photographing since it’s so far from its host star, about 100 times farther than Earth to the Sun.
However, light originally polluted the image because HIP 65426 b is 10,000 times fainter than its host star, according to a NASA blog.
“At first all I could see was light from the star, but with careful image processing I was able to remove that light and uncover the planet,” Carte added.
“It was really impressive how well the Webb coronagraphs worked to suppress the light of the host star,” said Sasha Hinkley, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Exeter and observation team leader.
In a Twitter thread posted by NASA, they also reveal that the new images of the exoplanet may look like mere specks to the average viewer.
“Fun fact: if we sent a telescope to the nearest exoplanet traveling at the same rate as @NASAVoyager (17.3 km/sec), it would take 73,000 years to reach it!” NASA penned. “And that is why exoplanet imagery from nearby Earth shows just dots of light.”
Although these are the first pics of HIP 65426 b, the planet was first discovered in 2017 using a ground-based telescope in Chile.
After years of research, scientists and astronomers have concluded that the James Webb Space Telescope is better situated to take high-resolution pictures of distant space, one million miles from Earth’s surface.
However, this isn’t the first time an orbital telescope has snapped a pic of an exoplanet. That title belongs to the Hubble Space Telescope, which spotted the exoplanet HD 209458 b in 2000.