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Pic: Planet Outside Solar System Seen Through NASA's James Webb Telescope – NDTV

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The exoplanet spotted by James Webb is over 10,000 times fainter than the host star.

For the first time, NASA’s powerful James Webb Telescope took direct images of an exoplanet, HIP 65426B, outside our solar system.

The planet which is about six to 12 times the mass of Jupiter, is a gas giant, meaning it has no rocky surface, and could not be habitable. According to NASA, it is a young planet, as they go about 15 to 20 million years old, compared to our Earth which is about 4.5 billion years old.

An exoplanet or extrasolar planet is a planet outside our solar system that usually orbits another star in our galaxy. Most of the exoplanets discovered so far are in the relatively small region of the Milky Way galaxy. “Small” refers to a region within thousands of light-years from our solar system.

It was discovered by astronomers in 2017 using the SPHERE instrument on the European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope in Chile which took images using the short infrared wavelength of light, while James Webb’s telescope used longer wavelengths which helps in revealing ground-based details, which ground-based telescopes cannot.

Sasha Hinkley, an associate professor of physics at the University of Exeter in the UK said, “This is a transformative moment, not only for Webb but for astronomy in general.”

Taking direct images of exoplanets is challenging as the host stars are much brighter than the planets. The HIP 65426 B is about 100 times farther from the host star compared to Earth’s distance from the Sun, making it distant enough for Webb to easily separate the planet from the star in the images.

The exoplanet spotted by James Webb is over 10,000 times fainter than the host star in the near-infrared and about a few thousand times fainter in mid-infrared, but Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) are equipped with conographs, which act as tiny masks that block, suppress the light from the host star, helping the giant powerful telescope to take direct images.

“Obtaining this image felt like digging for space treasure,” said Aarynn Carter, a researcher who led the analysis of images.

The researchers have been analysing the images and the data and the journal will be peer-reviewed, but NASA believes that the first capture of a distant world already hints at possibilities to study far-away planets.
 

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Jumpin’ Jupiter: Tonight, the giant planet will be closer to Earth than it’s been since 1963 – Vancouver Sun

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Jupiter will orbit just 590 million kilometres from Earth — 375 million km closer than its farthest point — on Sept. 26-27, 2022

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Attention, space geeks: Have you heard about Jupiter getting really close to Earth tonight?

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Well, not really close. The giant gas planet, the largest in our solar system, will still be orbiting 590 million kilometres away. But that’s 375 million kilometres closer than when it’s at its apogee, which is the space geek word for when it’s farthest away.

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Jupiter is viewable like a distant star for much of the year, but it will be especially bright and detailed in the night sky on Sept. 26-27 because it’s closer than it’s been to Earth since 1963 — yup, in nearly six decades.

We asked Marley Leacock, an astronomer and science educator with Vancouver’s H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, a few questions about how best to watch tonight’s rare space spectacle.

When is the best time to see it?

“Jupiter is in the sky pretty much all night,” says Leacock. “It rises in the east at around 7 p.m. and sets at about 7 a.m. tomorrow. The best time to view would be when it is highest in the sky, around 1 a.m. on Sept. 27.”

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Why is it so easily visible right now?

“Jupiter’s visibility has to do with where Jupiter is, but also where Earth and the Sun are,” explains Leacock.

The first reason is that “Jupiter will be in ‘opposition.’ This means that Jupiter will be directly opposite the Sun from our perspective, putting Earth right in the middle of them. When the sun sets in the west, Jupiter will rise directly opposite in the east. Opposition happens about every 13 months.

“The second factor that makes Jupiter so bright is that it is also approaching perigee. Perigee refers to when Jupiter and Earth are the closest to each other in their orbits. Perigee happens about once every 12 months, and the distance between the planets will change due to them being on two different orbits. This perigee, the two planets happen to be in the perfect place to get the smallest distance.

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“The combination of opposition and a close perigee makes the planet appear brighter in our skies.”

A view of Jupiter taken by the James Webb Space Telescope.
A view of Jupiter taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. Photo by NASA /AFP/Getty Images

Is tonight the only time it’s fairly easy to spot?

“Not at all,” says Leacock. “Jupiter is usually visible 10 months out of the year, switching between early morning and late at night. After the opposition, it will start to be in the sky for shorter amounts of time as the months go on. By the beginning of November, it is already high in the nighttime sky by the time the sun sets, and it sets four hours before sunrise.”

By the end of March, it won’t be visible at all. But it will reappear by about the end of May 2023. The next opposition is in early November of next year.

Any tips on how to view it? Do binoculars help?

“Luckily, Jupiter is very bright and easy to spot even in a light-polluted city (like Vancouver),” explains Leacock. “It appears as a very bright star in the sky. I always say to try to get somewhere dark anyways, just to see the stars that appear. An ideal location would be somewhere with high elevation with a clear view of the horizon, especially if you want to see the rise and set.”

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Leacock says typical binoculars will help magnify the planet, but it will still appear star-like. Those with higher magnification might allow you to see it in more detail and possibly even spot its Galilean moons.

True space geeks will want a telescope, though, as “most telescopes with a 60-90 mm aperture will give you a view of the cloud belts and the Galilean moons,” says Leacock.

More good news about tonight’s sky-watching event: The forecast is for perfectly clear skies above Vancouver overnight. Happy viewing.

jruttle@postmedia.com

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NASA moon rocket: Hurricane Ian delays launch – CP24

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Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press


Published Monday, September 26, 2022 5:58PM EDT

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – Hurricane Ian is prompting NASA to move its moon rocket off the launch pad and into shelter, adding weeks of delay to the lunar-orbiting test flight.

Mission managers decided Monday to return the rocket to its Kennedy Space Center hangar. The four-mile trip will begin late Monday night and could take as long as 12 hours.

The space center remained on the fringes of the hurricane’s cone of uncertainty. With the latest forecast showing no improvement, managers decided to play it safe. NASA already had delayed this week’s planned launch attempt because of the approaching storm.

NASA isn’t speculating when the next launch attempt might be, but it could be off until November. Managers will assess their options once the 322-foot (98-meter) Space Launch System rocket is safely back in the hangar.

A pair of launch attempts were thwarted by hydrogen fuel leaks and other technical trouble.

The $4.1 billion test flight will kick off NASA’s return to the moon since the Apollo moonshots of the 1960s and 1970s. No one will be inside the crew capsule for the debut launch. Astronauts will strap in for the second mission in 2024, leading to a two-person moon landing in 2025.

Meanwhile, NASA and SpaceX are still targeting an Oct. 3 launch of a crew from the U.S., Russia and Japan to the International Space Station. But managers acknowledged that the flight could be delayed as Kennedy braces for the hurricane and its aftermath.

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Jupiter will be its brightest in 59 years Monday. Here's how to see it for yourself – CBC News

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You may have noticed a bright “star” in the eastern sky after sunset, but that’s no star: it’s the mighty planet Jupiter, and it’s almost at its peak brightness.

Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, is reaching opposition, an event that occurs when a celestial object rises in the east as the sun sets in the west, putting both the sun and the object on opposite sides of Earth.

But what also makes this special is that the planet will be the closest it has been to Earth in 59 years, meaning it will also be brighter than usual.

The reason planets vary in their distance from Earth is because their orbits aren’t perfectly circular, but rather slightly elliptical.

This image of Jupiter and its moons Io (lower left) and Ganymede (upper right) was acquired by amateur astronomer Damian Peach on Sept. 12, 2010, when Jupiter was close to opposition. South is up and the ‘Great Red Spot’ is visible in the image. (NASA/Damian Peach)

While Jupiter’s opposition happens roughly every 13 months, it’s not common for it to coincide with its closest approach, making this a particularly special treat.

How to see it

At its farthest, Jupiter can be as far as 966 million kilometres away, but on Monday, it will be about 591 million kilometres from Earth. The last time it was this close was in October 1963. And it won’t be this close again until 2129.

You can find the planet in the east after sunset. It’s hard to miss, even from a light-polluted city, as it is the brightest object in the sky. 

As the night progresses, it rises higher into the sky, eventually appearing in the southeast around 11 p.m. ET. on Monday.

You don’t need a telescope or binoculars to see it, but if you do have a pair of binoculars or a telescope, you can have some fun over the coming days. 

One of the special things about Jupiter is its four brightest moons: Callisto, Io, Ganymede and Europa. They orbit Jupiter in a timescale visible from Earth night after night, and even hour after hour — if you’re patient. 

This sky map shows the positions of four of Jupiter’s moons the following night of the opposition, on Sept. 27 at roughly 10:30 p.m. ET. (Stellarium)
This sky chart shows the positions of four of Jupiter’s 80 moons at 10:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 26. (Stellarium)

If you do have a telescope, you can view the moons — and the amazing cloud bands of the gaseous planet, which make for a stunning sight. Also, according to Sky & Telescope magazine, the Great Red Spot will begin its transit — or its crossing — at 8:44 p.m. ET Monday. You can find local times using the publication’s online app or find its app and others like it for your cellphone or tablet. 

Saturn will also be visible in the sky. It currently lies in the south around 10 p.m. ET, but it’s more difficult to spot as it’s not as bright as Jupiter.

You can find several free apps available for download on Android phones and iPhones — such as Stellarium, Star Walk and Sky View — that will help you identify what you see in the night sky, including planets and where to find them.

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