The first direct picture of an exoplanet has been captured by the James Webb Telescope

Photo credit: NASA/ESA/CSA

The planet is a gas giant with six to twelve times Jupiter’s mass and, relative to Earth’s age, may be considered to be in its early history.

The James Webb Space Telescope, which was given to the world as a Christmas present last year, is now experiencing a string of firsts. HIP 65426 b, a gas giant and hence uninhabitable, was the subject of his first direct photograph of an extrasolar planet.

When compared to Earth’s age of 4,500 million years, this exoplanet seems to be rather youthful, with an estimated age of about 15–20 million years. Its mass is between six and twelve times that of Jupiter.

The Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile has previously spotted this object, but the photos produced by four of the James Webb’s sensors show additional features that ground-based telescopes missed.

Sasha Hinkley, of the University of Exeter, UK, who led the observations, called it ” a pivotal moment, not only for Webb but for astronomy in general.”

The new telescope was developed via a partnership between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency; the exoplanet is around a hundred times farther from its host star than Earth is from the Sun (CSA).

According to ESA’s announcement, the exoplanet appears as a slightly different shaped patch of light in each photograph owing to the quirks of the telescope’s optical system and how it translates light via the several optical sensors.

“Getting this picture was like looking for space treasure,” said Aarynn Carter, who supervised the study of the photographs at the University of California, USA.

According to NASA, the scientist added, “but with careful picture processing, I was able to remove it and uncover the planet.” Initially, the scientist could only see the light from the star. She also reflected on the fact that future observations of exoplanets “will alter our knowledge” of their physical and chemical makeup and their origin.

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