By Wyatt Carvalho
On Thursday, August 31, 2022 NASA shared the world’s first clear image of a planet outside of our own solar system. The image was taken by the James Webb telescope, the largest telescope currently in space. This is the first time that a clear image of a planet outside of our solar system has been taken.
Named HIP 65426 b, it is a gas giant, meaning it holds no solid surface. The exoplanet in the James Webb image, HIP 65426 b, is about six to twelve times the mass of Jupiter, our solar system’s largest planet. The planet was discovered in 2017, with the SPHERE instrument, a tool used to find far away planets, which took images using infrared rays of light. The planet is over 100 times farther from its star than the Earth is to the Sun, allowing scientists to separate the light from the light from its sun and the exoplanet itself.
Many different photos were taken of the exoplanet, the difference in color comes from the different lenses on the Webb, showing each in a different kind of light. These images display the Webbs’ powerful infrared cameras that can capture clear pictures of planets millions of light years away.
“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.”, said Aarynn Carter, the researcher at the University of California, who made this discovery. The first photo of an exoplanet paves the way for further advancements of the Webb telescopes’ exploration. As Carter states, “I think what’s exciting is that we have only just begun.”