NASA has provided an enticing teaser photo ahead of the much-anticipated release next week of the first space images from the James Webb Telescope – an instrument so powerful it can look back into the origins of the universe.
The $10 billion observatory, which launched last December and is now orbiting the Sun a million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth, is able to use its huge primary mirror and its instruments that are centered around the Sun focus on infrared, see where no telescope has seen before, see through dust and gas.
The first fully formed images are due to be released on July 12, but NASA on Wednesday provided a technical test photo – the result of 72 exposures over 32 hours – showing a range of distant stars and galaxies.
The image has some “rough edges,” NASA said in a statement, but is still “among the deepest images of the universe ever recorded” and offers a “tantalizing glimpse” of what’s to come becomes weeks, months and years.
“When this image was captured, I was thrilled to see clearly all the detailed structure in these faint galaxies,” said Neil Rowlands, program scientist for Webb’s Fine Guidance Sensor at Honeywell Aerospace.
Jane Rigby, Webb’s operations scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said the “faint blobs in this image are precisely the types of faint galaxies that Webb will study in his first year of scientific operations.”
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said last week that Webb is able to see further into the cosmos than any telescope before it.
“It will study objects in the Solar System and atmospheres of exoplanets orbiting other stars and give us clues as to whether their atmospheres might resemble our own,” he said.
“It might answer some of the questions we have: Where do we come from? What else is out there? Who are we? And of course it will answer some questions we don’t even know what the questions are.”
Webb’s infrared abilities make it possible to look back in time to the Big Bang, which took place 13.8 billion years ago.
As the universe expands, light from the earliest stars shifts from the ultraviolet and visible wavelengths where it was emitted to longer infrared wavelengths, which Webb is able to capture with unprecedented resolution.
Currently, the earliest cosmological observations date within 330 million years of the Big Bang, but with Webb’s skills, astronomers believe they will easily break the record.
Webb Telescope: NASA unveils the deepest image ever taken of the universe
© 2022 AFP
Citation: NASA releases James Webb Telescope “teaser” image (2022, July 7), retrieved July 8, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-07-nasa-james-webb -telescope-teaser.html
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