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A New Universe – First Images of James Webb Telescope

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Literally decades in the making, the first images from NASA’s $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope was released this week.

The firsts images shows thousands of galaxies – including the faintest objects ever observed – which have appeared in Webb’s view for the first time. This is the deepest view of the cosmos ever captured.

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The first image from the James Webb telescope, released on Monday, July 11. (NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI). The image depicts a massive group of galaxy clusters that act as a magnifying glass for the objects behind them. Called gravitational lensing, this will create Webb’s first deep field view of incredibly old and distant, faint galaxies.

The images are the first wave of full-color scientific images the telescope has gathered, showing the farthest humanity has ever seen in both time and distance.

Scientists have to extract colors and light from Webb’s images so they’re visible to the human eye , putting in a lot of work into thinking about how images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope will show light that the human eye cannot see. They also put colors in the images so more information can be extracted.

nasa james webb telescope universe images protopian magazine
This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth. (NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI)

What is the James Webb Space Telescope?

Webb, an international partnership with European and Canadian space agencies that had been planned since the early 1990s, launched in December from French Guiana.

After unfolding into its final form in space and successfully reaching its destination 1 million miles from Earth, the telescope recently completed its months-long process of preparing for science operations.

The size of a tennis court and three stories high, the Webb is the largest telescope ever sent into space. It’s also an astounding 100 times more powerful than the famed but aging Hubble Space Telescope, which is now 32 years old.

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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, in a new light. This enormous mosaic is Webb’s largest image to date, covering about one-fifth of the Moon’s diameter. It contains over 150 million pixels and is constructed from almost 1,000 separate image files. The information from Webb provides new insights into how galactic interactions may have driven galaxy evolution in the early universe. (NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI)

Who was James Webb?

The machine’s namesake, James Webb, was NASA’s second administrator, who served from 1961 to 1968.

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This side-by-side comparison shows observations of the Southern Ring Nebula in near-infrared light, at left, and mid-infrared light, at right, from NASA’s Webb Telescope. (NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI)

Past, Present, Future

Telescopes not only see things that are far away in distance, they also can look back in time because of how long it takes light from galaxies far away to reach Earth. That allows the Webb telescope, using infrared wavelengths, to see the first stars and galaxies that formed some 13 billion years ago, shortly after the Big Bang.

According to NASA, Webb will explore every phase of cosmic history – from within the solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe, and everything in between.

“Webb can see backwards in time to just after the Big Bang by looking for galaxies that are so far away that the light has taken many billions of years to get from those galaxies to our telescopes,” said Jonathan Gardner, Webb’s deputy project scientist said in a recent media briefing.

Webb uses a massive, 21-foot primary mirror made up of hexagonal tiles to study the cosmos. Its main capability is infrared observation, meaning it will be able to peer through obstacles like dust clouds to see the early phases of star formation. Scientists even hope to see the atmospheric compositions of promising far-off planets.

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s science mission chief said, with the new telescope, the cosmos is “giving up secrets that had been there for many, many decades, centuries, millennia.”

– with information from CNN, BBC

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