NASA's James Webb releases first direct image of a planet outside our solar system

NASA shared an image taken by James Webb Telescope showing the first-ever direct image of a planet outside our solar system. The exoplanet, HIP 65426 b has no rocky surface and could not be habitable.

It can be seen via varied bands of infrared light. Sasha Hinkley, Professor, University of Exeter who surveyed, called them a transformative moment, not only for Webb but also for astronomy generally.

Astronomers unearthed exoplanet in 2017 using SPHERE instrument on European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. Images were initially taken using short infrared wavelengths of light.

Webb’s view uses longer infrared wavelengths, revealing new details that ground-based telescopes couldn’t detect because of the intrinsic infrared glow of Earth’s atmosphere, NASA says. 

Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) were equipped with coronagraphs that blocked out starlight, thus enabling direct images of exoplanets like HIP 65426 b.

This breakthrough opens doors to future possibilities for studying distant worlds. "I think what’s most exciting is that we’ve only just begun," said Aarynn Carter, a researcher at the UC, Santa Cruz.

"There are many more images of exoplanets to come that will shape our overall understanding of their physics, chemistry, and formation. We may even discover previously unknown planets, too," he said.