Astronomy. The first image from the James Webb Space Telescope

U.S. President Joe Biden presented the first image of the Space Telescope, whose technology is by far the most advanced. Presentations continued on Tuesday, July 12, with pictures of other cosmic objects. The presentation was made by NASA in collaboration with ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).

These images have caused great excitement in the scientific community and have been eagerly awaited since the telescope was launched into space in December, a launch that has been delayed several times. The details and information that James Webb Telescope technology is able to provide represents a space revolution and will be able to provide us with a deep and unprecedented knowledge of how the universe works.

The celestial objects shown in these first images are as follows:

SMACS 0723: The first published image worked just one day for this new telescope, while it took weeks to get a similar image from Hubble. It is a huge galactic cluster that amplifies the light from objects behind the gravitational effects of light (which makes them a gravitational lens), providing information about the farthest and least galaxies. The image is a real-time machine since we can clearly observe galaxies formed 13.8 billion years ago at the beginning of the universe. These deep galaxies associated with the Big Bang will run other deep fields, including longer exposures, to perform more precise dating.


The first James-Webb figure shows a deep field with some galaxies more than 13 billion years old. © Nasa, ESA, CSA / STScI

Carina Nebula: One of the brightest nebulae in the sky, Carina is located in the constellation about 7600 light years away. It contains stars much larger than our sun.


In the Carina Nebula, focus on NGC 3324, a region rich in star formation. Comparison between Hubble Telescope (top) and James Webb (bottom) images © Nasa, ESA, CSA, STScI, and Webb ERO production team

Spectrum of the Exo-Planet WASP-96b: The James-Web Telescope does not only provide images. It is equipped with NIRISS instruments, an observation system that uses infrared to create spectra of unprecedented accuracy. The purpose of this spectrum for the planet WASP-96b is, above all, to test the strength of NIRISS. Here it is the spectrum of a gas giant exoplanet, about half the mass of Jupiter, discovered outside the solar system in 2014, about 1150 light-years away.


Spectrum of exoplanet WASP-96 b. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, and Webb ERO production teams

The Southern Ring Nebula (NGC 3132): Also known as the Eighth Star Nebula, it is a nebula of a planet that, despite its name, is not related to the planet, but refers to gas clouds and star dust surrounding a star. In the last stages of its development. It is located about 2000 light years away from Earth.


Southern Ring Nebula (NGC 3132), observed by two instruments. On the left, the photo was taken by NIRCam and on the right, Miri took the photo NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, and Webb ERO production teams

Stephan’s Quintet: This is a group of five galaxies in a gravitational collision. Their proximity condemns them to perform a “cosmic dance”, and they will clash several times in the future. The detail level in this picture is impressive. It provides unprecedented insights into how galactic gases are affected by the interaction of multiple galaxies. They are about 290 million light-years away from the constellation Pegasus.


Stefan’s Quintet is located in the constellation of Pegasus. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, and Webb ERO production teams

About James Webb

It was launched into space on December 25, 2021, and aims to study every phase of cosmic history from the solar system to the farthest galaxy. It has a 6.5 meter mirror consisting of 18 hexagonal segments. Hundreds of engineers and scientists from 300 universities, organizations and companies from 15 countries took part in its construction. It was operated by NASA in collaboration with the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

A pioneering technology allows it to place this huge segmented mirror. During the launch, all the mirrors were folded again on themselves for 18 segments in the hexagon, then it had to be exposed and aligned once in space and once in the correct orbit.

It will orbit the Sun, in an orbit called the second Lagrange Point (L2), 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. It is a space in space where the simple gravitational behavior between two bodies ensures that the satellite will be in the same relative position between them. That is, it will revolve around the sun, but it will always return to it. This makes it much easier to calibrate the instruments, but also to protect them.

What will he observe?

Looking at the distance means looking at the past. Light travels at such a speed, albeit very fast (about 300,000 kilometers per second), not infinite. This means that if an object is at a distance that takes 1 billion years for light to travel, what we will see is that the body was as it was when it emitted 1 billion years ago. The beginning of the universe, about 13.8 billion years ago (which is the observable limit of the universe), is the key to trying to understand the structure of the first stars and galaxies.

Another essential element is that light is an electromagnetic wave that propagates in a vacuum and, like any wave, it has certain properties that characterize it, which is called wavelength. Our eyes are sensitive to a certain wavelength (the light we actually see), but sensors can be created to detect wavelengths beyond the visible range. Due to the expansion of the universe, the light of the most distant object is called the infrared range, which is invisible to the naked eye. A novelty of this telescope (which its younger brother Hubble Telescope does not have) is that its sensors make it possible to capture infrared light with hitherto unknown resolutions. This makes it possible to measure the entire wavelength range in a single shot (which will be presented in the form of a spectrum).

The telescope will also be useful for observing nearby universes, such as planets, getting information about their evolution, and comparing them with other exoplanets called habitable zones (areas where conditions are met so that water remains in a liquid state). The state and therefore potentially their stars are able to host a kind of life.

Their images will certainly reveal a lot of information that will help us understand a little better the universe where we live and of which we are a part, but will certainly raise many more new questions that will require further research.

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