“This is a transformative moment not only for Webb but also for astronomy in general. With the Webb, we can apply a whole new battery of physics to look at the chemical properties of these planets,” said Sasha Hinkley. Hinkley is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Exeter and he led the study.
Astronomers discovered the planet HIP65426b in 2017 with the Sphere instrument on the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile. Those earlier images of the planet were taken from short infrared wavelengths of light, and they covered only a relatively narrow band of the planet’s total light emission.
Until now, the presence of most exoplanets has usually been inferred by indirect methods, such as the ‘transit method’, where some of the light from the host star is blocked by a planet passing in front of it.
Taking direct images of exoplanets, however, proved to be much more difficult, as the host stars that the planets revolve around are so much brighter than the planets, in this case several thousand times to more than ten thousand times brighter.