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Hello, HIP 65426 b! This jumble of letters and digits belongs to an extrasolar planet that was the topic of the James Webb Space Telescope’s first direct image of a faraway world. The James Webb Space Telescope is responsible for the discovery. An astronomer from the University of Exeter named Sasha Hinkley described this time in history as “a pivotal event, not only for Webb but also for astronomy generally.” The groundbreaking exoplanet observation was accomplished by a team of researchers from all over the world, led by Hinkley.

A couple of disclaimers before we go completely insane thinking about this. Other telescopes have captured direct images of exoplanets, which are planets that exist outside of our solar system. The research that was emphasized in NASA’s release on Thursday has not yet been subjected to the peer-review process, in which other scientists examine the evidence. You can yell “Cool!” now that everything is all set.

Because it has the ability to see in the infrared spectrum, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) can peek into the depths of space and find elusive objects that other types of telescopes are unable to detect. The newly released images show what HIP 65426 b seems to be like when viewed in four distinct bands of infrared light.

A postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz named Aarynn Carter described the process of obtaining this image as “feeling like mining for interstellar gold.” The picture analysis was directed by Carter. Webb is able to create a mask that blocks out starlight, which allows it to acquire photographs of distant exoplanets without being blinded by the brightness of their host stars. Because HIP 65426 b orbits its host star at a distance that is one hundred times greater than the distance that Earth is from the sun, it is somewhat simpler to obscure the light from its host star.

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You’ll find that each of the photos of the planets contains a solitary, white star of a very small size. This identifies the position of the host star, which up until this point had been concealed from view. Because of the work of a telescope in Chile that made the discovery of the planet in 2017, its existence was already known to the public. According to NASA, “Webb’s vision, at longer infrared wavelengths, exposes new details that ground-based telescopes would not be able to detect because of the inherent infrared glow of Earth’s atmosphere.” This glow prevents ground-based telescopes from seeing infrared light.

The age of the exoplanet is estimated to be between between 15 million and 20 million years. On this 4.5-billion-year-old planet that we call home, we humans have made our home. The mass of HIP 65426 b, a gas giant, is estimated to be between six and twelve times that of Jupiter. As they continue to go through the data, the researchers should be able to arrive at a more precise estimate of its mass.

The group is now working on a research paper that will be submitted to the peer review phase of a journal’s publication procedure before finally being made public. The preliminary findings, on the other hand, are already cause for celebration.

Webb, which was launched in the latter half of 2021 and underwent a protracted deployment process, has already delivered a broad bouquet of photographs and observations. These range from magnificent nebulas to the detection of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of an exoplanet. Even if the views of HIP 65426 b appear to be glowing blobs, this is just the beginning of the great science that is to come.

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