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Our view of the universe just got bigger: The first image from NASA’s new space telescope revealed Monday is packed with galaxies and offers the deepest view of the universe ever captured.
The first image from the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope is the most distant image ever seen by mankind in both time and distance, closer to the dawn of time and the edge of space. This image will be followed on Tuesday by four more galactic beauty shots from the telescope’s initial views.
The deep field image released at the White House event is full of many stars, with massive galaxies in the foreground and faint and extremely distant galaxies peeking out here and there. Part of the image is light from shortly after the Big Bang, which was 13.8 billion years ago.
“We’re going to give humanity a new perspective on space,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told reporters at a briefing last month. “And it’s a sight we’ve never seen before.
Tuesday’s images include a look at a giant gas planet outside our solar system, two images of a nebula where stars are born and die in spectacular beauty, and an update of a classic image of five tightly clustered galaxies dancing around each other. .
The largest and most powerful space telescope in the world took off from French Guiana in South America last December. In January, it reached its vantage point at a distance of 1.6 million kilometers from Earth. Then began the lengthy process of aligning the mirrors, getting the infrared detectors cool enough to work, and calibrating the science instruments, all protected by a tennis court-sized sunshade that keeps the telescope cool.
The plan is to use the telescope to peer so far back that scientists will peer into the early days of the universe, about 13.7 billion years ago, and bring closer cosmic objects, even our own solar system, into sharper focus.
Webb is considered the successor to the highly successful but aging Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble looked up to 13.4 billion years. In 2016, it found the light wave signature of an extremely bright galaxy. Astronomers measure how far back they look in light years, with one light year being 5.8 trillion miles (9.3 trillion kilometers).
“Webb can see back in time to just after the Big Bang by looking for galaxies that are so far away that it took many billions of years for light to reach our telescopes from those galaxies,” said Jonathan Gardner, Webb’s deputy project scientist. during a media briefing.
How far into the past did that first picture look? Over the next few days, astronomers will perform complex calculations to determine how old these galaxies are, project scientist Klaus Pontoppidan said last month.
The deepest view of space “is not a record that will last very long,” Mr. Pontoppidan said, because scientists are expected to go even deeper with the telescope.
Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s science mission chief, said when he saw the images, he was as emotional as his colleagues: “It’s really hard not to look at the universe in a new light and not just experience a moment that’s deeply personal.”
At 21 feet (6.4 meters), Webb’s gold-plated flower-shaped mirror is the largest and most sensitive ever sent into space. It consists of 18 segments, one of which was hit by a larger-than-expected micrometeoroid in May. The four previous micrometeoroid hits on the mirror were smaller. Despite the impacts, the telescope continues to exceed mission requirements with almost no data loss, according to NASA.
NASA is working with the European and Canadian space agencies on Webb.
“I’m really excited now because this dramatic advance heralds the achievement of the ultimate prize for many astronomers like myself: determining the ‘Cosmic Dawn’ – the moment when the universe was first bathed in starlight,” Richard Ellis, professor of astrophysics at the university. College London, he said by email.
The first image from NASA’s James Webb Telescope revealed Monday is packed with galaxies and offers the deepest view of the universe ever captured.
The “deep field” image released at the White House event is full of many stars, with massive galaxies in the foreground and faint and extremely distant galaxies poking through here and there.
Over the next few days, astronomers will perform complex calculations to determine how old these galaxies are.