Most exoplanets--planets around other stars--that we have discovered have only been detected by measuring the wobble they exert on their star or by detecting a dip in stellar brightness as they pass between Earth of their star. This image is one of a growing number of direct images of exoplanets.
While these three planets have been previously directly imaged by another telescope in 2008, this image is one of the first images released from a new instrument on the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii. This instrument, called a chronograph, blocks out the light of the host star, allowing astronomers to not only observe the orbiting planets, but also dissect their light to detect the elements that make up their atmospheres.
This new chronograph on the Subaru telescope, dubbed CHARIS, is one of several new chronographs now being used to observe exoplanets, yielding more and more insights about planets around distant stars. CHARIS is capable of detecting and analyzing gas giants larger than Jupiter around other stars (no chronographs can yet directly detect Earth-sized exoplanets) and will be open for full scientific use in February 2017.