Successfully photographed an extrasolar planet for the first time, raising expectations for the James Webb Space Telescope |

Thanks to JWST’s size and sensitivity, we were able to capture more of the planet’s light than any other observatory.

This allows Hinckley and Biller’s team to accurately estimate the planet’s mass. The SpherE survey estimated the planet’s mass to be about ten times that of Jupiter. But the team estimates that it is around seven times less than that. The results have also helped identify a planet with a radius 1.4 times that of Jupiter.

A simple planetary evolution model is difficult to explain the characteristics of this planet. Having accurate data allows scientists to validate their models and “allows us to understand better,” said Carter, a member of the team.

The image shows no surface features on HIP 65426 b, but like Jupiter, it “probably looks banded” due to differences in temperature and composition. The atmosphere may also be battered by storms and swirling clouds, Biller explains.

The giant planet is not suitable for life as we know it, but scientists want to know more about this type of giant planet. Jupiter probably played a key role in shaping our solar system and may have influenced the establishment of life on Earth. “It would be nice to know if it works in other planetary systems as well,” McIntosh said.

The James Webb Space Telescope’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and the Mid-Infrared Observatory (MIRI) imaged the planet HIP 65426 b at multiple infrared wavelengths to obtain information for inferring the planet’s properties. A white star indicates the location of the star HIP 65426, but the light is suppressed by coronagraph and image processing. Also, the rod-shaped objects seen in the two NIRCAM images are due to optical causes and are not objects of photography.


Scientists say the JWST is working more reliably than expected, so it will be able to image even smaller exoplanets than originally thought. It may even be possible to image planets that are about a third the mass of Jupiter. “We can image planets like Neptune and Uranus that have never been directly imaged before,” said Emily Rickman, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Maryland, which operates the JWST.

Astronomers will line up to image the planets with it, Hinckley said, now that the JWST has passed the field test with the coronagraph. Hinckley expects “dozens” of pictures over the life of the telescope. “I expect the number to be close to several hundred.”

look to the distant sky

In addition to pictures of exoplanets, Hinckley’s team will soon discover various molecular arrangements in the atmosphere of a brown dwarf star (sometimes called a “failed star”) orbiting a companion star.

The object is about 20 times as massive as Jupiter, but has a mass just below the threshold for nuclear fusion in its core. When examined with a spectrometer on board the JWST, which splits light into wavelengths and analyzes the components, it was possible to identify substances such as water, methane, carbon dioxide, and sodium with unprecedented detail.

They also detected clouds of smoke-like silica in the atmosphere of what appeared to be a brown dwarf. Its existence has been demonstrated before, but has not been precisely identified. “In my opinion, this is the most important spectroscopy result from a substellar companion star,” explains Hinckley. “I’ve never seen anything like this”

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