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Webb Space Telescope captures its first image of a distant planet

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Posted at 10:12 AM, Sep 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-02 11:47:19-04

The Webb Space Telescope just took its first direct image of a distant world outside of our solar system.

Exoplanet HIP 65426 b is 6-12 times larger than Jupiter and orbits 100 times further from its host star than the earth. Its distance from its host star makes it easier to spot.

Scientists say photographing distant worlds is challenging due to the host star's brightness.

“This is a transformative moment, not only for Webb but also for astronomy generally,” said Sasha Hinkley, associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. “It was really impressive how well the Webb coronagraphs worked to suppress the light of the host star.”

Removing light from its host star took some work by scientists.

“Obtaining this image felt like digging for space treasure,” said Aarynn Carter, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “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.”

It is a young planet — a mere 15-20 million years old — compared to Earth, which is estimated to be at least 4.5 billion years old. The world was discovered in 2017.

It is located 385 light-years from earth.