The new James Webb Space Telescope has shown its first full-colour image, and it does not disappoint.
The image, which contains light from galaxies that have taken many billions of years to reach us, is thought to be the deepest, most precise infrared vision of the Universe to date.
During a White House briefing, the picture was revealed to US President Joe Biden.
Tuesday’s global presentation by NASA is scheduled to include the release of further James Webb’s debut images.
President Biden said, “These photos will tell the world that America can do tremendous things, and remind the American people, especially our children, that there’s nothing beyond our capacity.”
“No one has ever glimpsed the potential we can envision. We have the ability to venture into uncharted territory.”
The $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which was inaugurated on December 25 of last year, is positioned as the iconic Hubble Space Telescope’s replacement.
Although it will observe the sky in many different ways, it has two main objectives. The first is to capture images of the very first stars that appeared in the universe more than 13.5 billion years ago, and the second is to explore distant planets to determine whether or not they might be inhabited.
The picture displayed in front of President Biden shows that Webb is capable of pursuing the first of these goals.
The group of galaxies you can see is called SMACS 0723 and is located in the Southern Hemisphere constellation of Volans.
Actually, the cluster is not that far away; it is “just” 4.6 billion light-years away. However, the enormous mass of this cluster has distorted and enlarged the light from much, much farther away objects.
It is a gravitational effect, which is a telescope’s zoom lens in terms of astronomy.
The warped shape of galaxies that were there just 600 million years after the Big Bang can be seen in this image because of Webb’s 6.5-meter-wide golden mirror and extremely sensitive infrared detectors (the Universe is 13.8 billion years old).
And it’s superior to that. The quality of the Webb data indicates to scientists that the telescope is feeling space well beyond the farthest object in this image.
This may even be the deepest cosmic viewing field ever obtained as a result.
“The speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. Additionally, the light you are observing on one of those tiny specks has travelled for more than 13 billion years “Bill Nelson, a NASA administrator, added.
“By the way, because this is only the first picture, we’re going further back. They are travelling back roughly 13.5 billion years. And given that the Universe is 13.8 billion years old, you’re practically starting from nothing.”
To get this kind of output, Hubble used to look at the sky for weeks on end. After only 12.5 hours of monitoring, Webb discovered its super-deep objects.
On Tuesday, the European and Canadian space agencies, along with NASA, will release further colour images from Webb.
The study of planets outside of our solar system will be one of the topics covered throughout the discussion.
The atmosphere of WASP-96 b, a massive planet more than 1,000 light-years away from Earth, has been studied by Webb. It will inform us of the atmosphere’s chemistry.
For life to exist, WASP-96 b orbits its parent star far too closely. However, it is hoped that one day Webb may discover a planet with atmospheric gases that are identical to those that envelop the Earth. This tantalising possibility could suggest the existence of biology.
Scientists at NASA are confident that Webb will deliver on its promise.
On Tuesday’s additional release, deputy project scientist Dr Amber Straughn commented, “I have seen the first photographs and they are magnificent.”
“They are stunning just as in photos. But what really excites me about them are the suggestions of the intricate research we’ll be able to conduct with them “She spoke to BBC News.
The Webb project’s programme scientist, Dr Eric Smith, stated that he believed the general public already understood the significance of the new telescope.
“The way Webb is built and seems, in my opinion, plays a significant role in why the public is so attracted by this project. It’s like a spacecraft from the distant future.”
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