August 18, 2022

The James Webb Telescope Provides A Super-Clear View Of The Early Universe

4 min read
The James Webb Telescope Provides A Super-Clear View Of The Early Universe

On Monday, US President Joe Biden unveiled the first image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope—an image of a galaxy cluster offering the most in-depth look at the early universe ever seen—taking a break from political pressures to bask in the splendor of the cosmos.

The White House provided an early preview of Webb’s first full-color, the high-resolution image on the eve of a wider reveal of images and spectrographic data that NASA planned to present on Tuesday at the Goddard Space Flight Center in suburban Maryland.

The $9 billion Webb observatory, the biggest and most potent space research telescope ever deployed, was created to look through space to the beginning of the known universe and usher in a new era of astronomical discovery.

The galaxy cluster known as SMACS 0723, which has been around for 4.6 billion years, was visible in the image presented by Vice President Joe Biden and NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. Because of its mass, the cluster acts as a “gravitational lens,” distorting space and greatly magnifying the light from more distant galaxies behind it.

The “background” of the image, which is a combination of photographs of various wavelengths of light, has at least one older, a fainter spot of light that dates back more than 13 billion years, according to Nelson. The Big Bang, the hypothetical flashpoint that started the expansion of the universe around 13.8 billion years ago, is only 800 million years older than this, or by a mere 0.1 percent.

The James Webb Telescope Provides A Super-Clear View Of The Early Universe

Before the image was revealed, Biden remarked that it was “a new window into the history of our cosmos.” “The first light to pass through that window will be visible to us today; it will come from other planets that are orbiting stars that are far more distant from the sun. I find it amazing.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, who is the head of the US National Space Council, accompanied him to the White House complex’s Old Executive Office Building.

SAND GRAIN IN THE SKY, FROM

A list of the five celestial objects picked for Webb’s spectacular debut was published by the space agency on Friday. SMACS 0723 is one of them. According to NASA, it provides “the most detailed glimpse of the early universe to date.” It is a jewel-like sliver of the faraway cosmos. Additionally, it is the most detailed and refined infrared image of the distant universe yet captured.

A person standing on Earth could have handled the little piece of sky containing the millions of galaxies at arm’s length, Nelson said, and it was about the size of a grain of sand.

The aerospace industry behemoth Northrop Grumman Corp. contracted for the construction of Webb. On Christmas Day 2021, French Guiana, on the northeastern coast of South America, blasted it into space for NASA as well as its European and Canadian partners.

It has taken six months to remotely unfold Webb’s many parts, orient its mirrors, and calibrate its instruments before the highly anticipated publication of its first imagery.

Now that Webb is completely operational and tuned up, researchers will launch a variety of missions to study the development of galaxies, the life cycles of stars, the atmospheres of far-off exoplanets, and the moons of our outer solar system. These missions were chosen through a competitive process.

The James Webb Telescope Provides A Super-Clear View Of The Early Universe

The 30-year-old Hubble Space Telescope, which mostly functions at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths, is nearly 100 times less sensitive than Webb, which was designed to view its targets primarily in the infrared range.

In comparison to Hubble or any other telescope, Webb’s primary mirror, which is an array of 18 hexagonal segments of gold-coated beryllium metal, has a far bigger light-collecting surface. This allows it to observe objects at greater distances and, consequently, further back in time.

Scientists were already aware of each of Webb’s five initial targets. The Carina Nebula and the Southern Ring Nebula, both hundreds of light-years from Earth, are two gigantic clouds of gas and dust that were launched into space by supernova explosions to become incubators for new stars.

Additionally, the collection contains a galaxy cluster called Stephan’s Quintet, which was first identified in 1877 and contains a number of galaxies that NASA has described as being “engaged in a cosmic dance of repeated close encounters.”

Webb’s first spectrographic investigation of an exoplanet, roughly half the mass of Jupiter and more than 1,100 light-years away, will also be presented by NASA. This analysis reveals the molecular traces of filtered light traveling through its atmosphere.

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