First Images of Exoplanet Released By NASA

Published: Sep. 9, 2022 at 6:43 PM EDT
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) - The first images of a planet outside of our solar system were released by NASA this week. NewsSource8′s Brian Bouchard caught up with Dr. Kevin McCartney of UMPI and the Maine Solar System Model to see how this discovery plays into our understanding of the cosmos.

Dr. Kevin McCartney – Professor of Geology, UMPI

“The James Webb Telescope has now given us our first visual image of an exoplanet”

An exoplanet is a planet that orbits a star outside the solar system.

Dr. Kevin McCartney says we’ve known about the existence of this planet, named “HIP 65426 b”, since 2017, but haven’t been able to see it…until now. McCartney says this is because of the limitations of different technologies.

Dr. Kevin McCartney – Professor of Geology, UMPI

“The James Webb Telescope and the Hubble Telescope are similar but they’re different, and they’re different in the way they see things. The hubble telescope usually looked at visual light, maybe a little ultraviolet. The Webb Telescope looks at wavelengths that are well into the infrared.”

Because infrared light’s wavelengths are longer than those of visual light, we are able to generate images that would normally be undetectable to the naked eye which is helpful because “HIP 65426 b” and the star it belongs to is many lightyears away.

Dr. Kevin McCartney – Professor of Geology, UMPI

“That star is 355 light years from here, which is pretty much immediately in our backyard it is just a stones throw in cosmic terms away from us.”

The exoplanet is estimated to be located around 90 astronomical units from our sun.

Dr. Kevin McCartney – Professor of Geology, UMPI

“So in the context of the solar system model here, it would be in Northern Washington County.”

McCartney says not much is known about this planet at this time, though it is believed to be a planet with a similar makeup to Jupiter, though about 6 to 12 times the mass, and it is relatively young on a cosmic scale, only about 15 to 20 million years old, compared to our 4.5 billion year old earth. And while mankind may never visit “HIP 65426 b”, that doesn’t stop inquiring minds from pondering one of mankind’s biggest questions.

Dr. Kevin McCartney – Professor of Geology, UMPI

“My student’s are curious about matters of an alien species or something like that”

And while McCartney has no plans to add “HIP 65426 b” to the current model of the solar system, he says seeing the first images of an exoplanet is certainly a scientific milestone which opens the door for even greater discoveries.

Brian Bouchard, NewsSource8