The James Webb Space Telescope takes the first image of an exoplanet – New Scientist

For the first time, astronomers have captured an image of an exoplanet using the James Webb Space Telescope. The telescope appears to be performing so well that it can look for things like clouds on planets in the future.

His James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) The first pictures of an alien world installed. And because the telescope is 10 times better than expected, we’ll see more in the future.

astronomers from Only Twenty Exoplanets Live Photos All using telescopes on Earth. But because our planet’s atmosphere blocks so many infrared wavelengths, it’s been hard to discern the details until now.

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Jupiter fans

The astrophysicist says Sasha Hinckley From the University of Exeter, UK. Now, Hinkley and colleagues have used JWST to image the so-called super-Jupiter, HIP 65426 b. This planet has a mass about seven masses from Jupiter, and orbits a star 400 light-years from Earth. The team captured the exoplanet at a wavelength range and with previously impossible accuracy.

“What we know from these observations is that the JWST will break these sensitivity thresholds,” Hinckley said. Future observations should be able to dive below Jupiter’s mass, he says. We can now see planets like ice giants in our solar system. These could be objects similar to Saturn, or maybe even Neptune if we’re lucky.

young and hot

HIP 65426 b is relatively small and hot, which means it is easier to frame. It was previously observed with ground-based telescopes, so the researchers used the planet to test the performance of JWST’s exoplanet. They found that the JWST performed 10 times better than expected, which is more sensitive than previous telescopes.

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Says astronomer and team member Beth Peller from the University of Edinburgh.

The telescope was also very accurate in measuring changes in the brightness of an exoplanet. The contrast in brightness means that there is something similar to clouds, a form of weather, on these exoplanets. So maybe this means that the JWST is sensitive enough to look for things like clouds,” says Hinckley.

A broad spectrum

The team captured the planet in a range of different infrared wavelengths, from the near infrared used in previous images to medium infrared wavelengths not used before. “By observing these planets at such a wide spectrum of wavelengths, we have more information,” Hinckley says. We have more information about the chemical composition of the atmosphere. This is very important, because if we understand what these planets are made of, and what their chemical components are, then it can tell us something about the process of their formation.

HIP 65426b as seen by JWST NIRCam and MIRI instruments. Photo: NASA/ESA/CSA, A Carter (UCSC), ERS Team 1386, A. Pagan (STScI).

Imaging HIP 65426 b is challenging because it orbits close to its host star, resulting in a large contrast in brightness. Hinckley and his team used a coronal vertebra that blocks the star’s light, allowing them to view the image of the planet across a range of wavelengths. The planet looks a little different depending on which of JWST’s infrared instruments, NIRCam and MIRI, were used. This is because of the way these devices process images, says Beller. Some of these different images can be seen in the image above.

The astronomer says: Because the JWST is in great demand for observing many astronomical objects, it is actually not the optimal device for imaging exoplanets. Michael Murifield from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. “But JWST is such a huge leap forward that I think it will probably take us to areas we haven’t seen before.”

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Exo Earth

There are of course limits. Exoplanets are so far from Earth, and so difficult to image, that JWST cannot take high-resolution images of similar planets in our solar system. However, Hinkley hopes that lessons learned from JWST will eventually lead to a telescope that can see an Earth-sized planet orbiting another star. “Ultimately, we want to get a picture of the planet one day,” he says.

Megan Vasquez

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