The first image of an exoplanet with the James Webb Space Telescope

Astronomers have taken the first image of an exoplanet – a planet beyond our solar system – with the James Webb Space Telescope.

This is the first image of an exoplanet with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), as well as the first image of an exoplanet at wavelengths longer than 5 microns.

An exoplanet is a planet beyond our solar system. Learning about exoplanets teaches us new information about how the universe works.

This image is of exoplanet HIP 65426b. It is a young, giant planet. As a young planet, it is still very hot, and hence can be detected by its glow in the infrared. 

The image captured shows the exoplanet as seen in different bands of infrared light: purple shows the NIRCam (near infrared camera) instrument’s view at 3 micrometers, blue shows the NIRCam instrument’s view at 4.44 micrometers, yellow shows the MIRI (mid infrared instrument) view at 11.40 micrometers, and red shows the MIRI instrument’s view at 15.50 micrometers. These images look different because of the ways that the different filters capture light. The small white star in each image marks the location of the host star, HIP 65426. The JWST team used instruments known as coronagraphs to block out the light of the host star to reveal the planet.

Prof Beth Biller, based at the School’s Institute for Astronomy, is the co-principal investigator of a James Webb Space Telescope Early Release Science Programme:

This is the first of hopefully many exoplanet images from the JWST. With JWST's unprecedented sensitivity, we can detect and characterise both young giant planets like HIP 65426b, but also potentially young analogues to Saturn and Neptune as well!

Dr Trent Dupuy and PhD student Pengyu Liu from the School were also involved in the JWST Early Release Science Programme as part of a large international collaboration involving 100+ scientists.