The first images from the James Webb Space Telescope have been released, beginning with the first image of space unveiled by US President Joe Biden, the farthest humankind has ever seen into the depths of the universe and the deepest that ever anyone could look back in time.
Nasa is expected to post more Webb images on the space agency’s website beginning at 10:30 a.m. EDT.
The images are breathtaking, beautiful, and represent an incredible feat of engineering. But they also represent an amazing human achievement — the culmination of decades of work by scientists, engineers and technicians and the return on investment in the billions of dollars, according to the James Webb’s interdisciplinary scientist -Heidi Hammel space telescope project.
The images mark the beginning of decades of more science that will tell us more than ever about where humanity came from and where it is going.
“[Webb] is a positive example of what we can do as a species when people work together in good faith across national borders to share a dream and dare amazing things,” said Dr. mutton LatestPageNews in an interview. “Humanity is better off.”
Conceptual work on what would later become the Webb Telescope began as early as 1996 and was then called The Next Generation Space Telescope, the planned successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched in 1990.
But Webb would always go beyond Hubble’s capabilities, beginning with a much larger mirror that would allow it to gather more light to see more distant, fainter objects. According to University of Chicago cosmologist Michael Gladders, Webb’s primary mirror is 6.5 meters in diameter, compared to Hubble’s just 2.4 meters.
That means it could provide sharper images than Hubble and use instruments to find answers to fundamental questions about life and the universe in more detail than ever before.
“JWST will revolutionize our understanding of the cosmos on an enormous range of scales,” he said, “from the properties of planets orbiting other nearby stars to the first stars to appear not long after in the Dark Ages of the Universe.” formed the big bang from primordial gas.”
The most distant galaxies in Webb’s deep-field image released Monday are about 13 billion years old, but Webb will go further. Where Hubble mapped galaxies that formed about 480 million years after the Big Bang, Webb will eventually map galaxies that form within 200 million years of the Big Bang.
It is this contemplative time, of which Monday’s image is just a task of things to come, that hints at how Webb could change our understanding of how life – like everything – came into being.
“What happened after the Big Bang?” Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist and senior Webb Project scientist at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center John Mather said in a statement. “How did the expanding universe cool and create black holes and galaxies and stars and planets and humans?”
The full suite of Webb’s first images, to be released Tuesday, will also provide clues as to how the instrument could transform human understanding of our place in the universe.
In addition to sharper, more detailed images of targets previously imaged by Hubble, such as the Carina and South Wheel Nebulae, the suite will include the light spectrum of exoplanet WASP-96 b, a gas giant about half the size of Jupiter 1,150 light years from Earth.
Webb’s spectrograph will separate the starlight streaming through WASP-96 b’s atmosphere into its individual frequencies, which scientists can then use to characterize the chemical composition of the planet’s atmosphere.
Applied to the more than 5,000 exoplanets discovered so far, Webb may have the best chance yet of discovering atmospheric biosignatures of extraterrestrial life, organisms that altered the atmosphere of another world just as early microbes altered Earth’s atmosphere by producing oxygen.