NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has taken its first direct image of a distant world: a planet lying outside our solar system. The image shows the exoplanet HIP 65426 b in varying infrared light, revealing that it is a gas giant, contains no rocky surface and is thus uninhabitable. From the image, astronomers were also able to discern that the exoplanet is about six to 12 times the mass of Jupiter and very young, estimated to be around 15 to 20 million years old. While this isn’t the first image of a distant world ever captured (the Hubble Space Telescope has also done so), taking images of exoplanets is extremely difficult since the brightness of stars often eclipses a clear view of planets. For the Webb to clearly capture HIP 65426 b is an indication of “future possibilities for studying distant worlds,” says NASA. Learn more about this development at their site.
Image courtesy of NASA/ESA/CSA/A Carter (UCSC)/the ERS 1386 team/A. Pagan (STScI)