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NEWS | Sept. 2, 2022

NASA’s JWST Takes Its First-Ever Direct Image of Distant World

By Paul Cage, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Corporate Communications

An astrophysicist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) is part of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s (JWST) Early Release Science Team for Direct Observations of Exoplanets that released the observations of a super-Jupiter exoplanet, HIP 65426 b, using JWST Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) Sept. 1.
Jordan Stone, Ph.D., an astrophysicist in NRL’s Remote Sensing Division said this early release of the exoplanet imagery was detected using seven of JWST’s observational filters, representing the first images of an exoplanet to be obtained by JWST, and the first ever direct detection of an exoplanet at wavelengths beyond 5 microns.
“One of the things we're most excited about is that we now have the ability to measure the brightness of planets at wavelengths longer than 5 microns,” Jordan Stone, Ph.D., an astrophysicist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. said. “So we now have this, highly precise, machine that's giving us the ability to, to measure light from planet surfaces across a really broad wavelength range. And so this is really going to transform our understanding of giant planets.”
An exoplanet is any planet beyond our solar system. HIP 65426 b, is a relatively young exoplanet, about 14 million years old, and is located in the constellation Centaurus, about 349 light years from Earth.
The JWST NIRCam observes from 0.6 to 5 microns and offers imaging, coronagraphy, and grism slitless spectroscopy; MIRI is a camera and a spectrograph that observes mid to long infrared radiation from 5 microns to 28 microns. It also has coronagraphs, especially for observing exoplanets.
HIP 65426 b circles an A type star, which is about twice the size of the sun. The planet orbits its star at about 60 – 100 AU (7.4 – 9.3 billion miles) distance. That is roughly the double the distance Pluto is from the sun. The exoplanet is seven times the mass and about one and a half times the size of Jupiter.
JWST, launched on Christmas Day 2021, is an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency, and the first large strategic mission of the NASA Astrophysics Division to launch since the 1990’s. The infrared observatory is orbiting the Sun about 1 million miles from Earth. Since coming on line, it has produced stunning images and a series of preliminary discoveries.

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