According to a press release from NASA’s Washington, DC, headquarters, astronomers have successfully captured the first direct image of a planet outside of our solar system using the James Webb Space Telescope. Since the exoplanet, which is a planet outside of our solar system, is a gas giant without a rocky surface, it cannot support life. The image, as seen through four different light filters, demonstrates how Webb’s strong infrared vision can readily capture worlds outside of our solar system, paving the path for upcoming observations that will provide more information about exoplanets than has ever been available.
On 25 December 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope was launched from Kourou, French Guiana, on an Ariane 5 rocket. It arrived at the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point, about 1.5 million kilometers (930,000 mi) from Earth in January 2022. This image was taken with Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), both of which are equipped with coronagraphs. As stars are brighter than planets, it is challenging to take direct images of exoplanets.
Sasha Hinkley, associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, who oversaw this observational effort with a significant international team, declared that this was a “transformative moment,” not just for Webb but for astronomy in general. CSA and ESA are partners in the international mission known as Webb, which is headed by NASA (Canadian Space Agency).