The largest space telescope ever built is ready to show us what it has been looking at for the past six months. But before NASA presents the world with a slideshow of the first space observations from the James Webb Space Telescope, the White House will present a brief preview on Monday afternoon.
President Biden is about to release a “deep field” image taken by the observatory. Perhaps the Webb Telescope’s biggest promise is to see some of the first stars that lit up the universe since the Big Bang. While Monday’s image won’t be able to do that, it is a proof of principle technique and a hint of what else can be gained from scientific instruments that astronomers have been waiting decades to put into action.
When will the image appear and how can I view it?
The first image will be unveiled Monday at 5:00 pm by President Biden at the White House. on NASA TV or the agency’s YouTube channel. The New York Times will also provide a live video feed.
What image are NASA and Biden showing?
On Friday, NASA released a list of five items that Webb had captured with his instruments. But Mr. Biden will demonstrate just one of them at the White House on Monday.
The image is called SMACS 0723. This is a patch of sky visible from the Earth’s Southern Hemisphere, which is often visited by Hubble and other telescopes in search of the distant past. It includes a massive cluster of galaxies about four billion light-years away that astronomers use as a kind of space telescope. The cluster’s vast gravitational field acts like a lens, distorting and magnifying light from galaxies behind it that would otherwise be too faint and far away to be seen.
Learn more about the James Webb Space Telescope
Traveling nearly a million miles to reach beyond the Moon, the James Webb Space Telescope will spend years observing space.
Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA Associate Administrator for Space Science, called the image the most profound look into our cosmos’ past. He added that later images would certainly look back even further.
Marcia Riquet of the University of Arizona, who led the creation of one of the cameras on the Webb Telescope that took the image, known as NIRCam, said: The power of this telescope.
What about the rest of the images?
NASA will show more photos at 10:30 a.m. ET Tuesday at live video stream you can watch on NASA TV or YouTube. They will be on display at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
The paintings are a panoramic tour of the universe, painted in colors unseen by the human eye – invisible infrared rays or thermal radiation. A small group of astronomers and science experts selected the images to demonstrate the capabilities of the new telescope and confuse the public. Among the space images are old friends of astronomers, amateurs and professionals alike, who can now see them in their new infrared garb.
the South Ring Nebula, a shell of gas ejected by a dying star about 2,000 light-years away, and the Carina Nebula, a vast swirling expanse of gas and stars, including some of the most massive and potentially explosive star systems in the Milky Way.
Another familiar astronomical picture is Stephen’s Quintet, a dense cluster of galaxies about 290 million light-years away in the constellation Pegasus.
The team will also release a detailed spectrum of an exoplanet known as WASP-96b, a gas giant with a mass about half that of Jupiter that orbits a star 1,150 light-years away every 3.4 days. Such a spectrum is such a detail that can show what is in the atmosphere of this world.
Why did it take so long to share the first images of Webb?
Flying into space over Christmas last year was just the first step for the James Webb Space Telescope.
The spacecraft has been orbiting the second Lagrange point, or L2, about a million miles from Earth since January 2019. 24. At point L2, the gravitational attraction of the Sun and Earth keeps Webb’s motion around the Sun in sync with the motion of the Earth.
Before it got there, parts of the telescope had to be carefully deployed: a sunshield that keeps the instruments cool so they could accurately pick up faint infrared light, 18 gold-plated hexagonal mirror pieces.
For astronomers, engineers, and officials observing from Earth, the deployment has been a busy time. There were 344 single-point failures, meaning that if any of the actions hadn’t worked, the telescope would have been reduced to useless space junk. They all worked.
It was also necessary to turn on the four scientific instruments of the telescope. Within months of the telescope’s arrival at L2, its operators carefully aligned the 18 mirrors. In April, the Mid-Infrared Instrument, or MIRI, which calls for the coldest temperatures, was cooled to minus 447 degrees Fahrenheit, and scientists could begin their final round of tests. Once these and other steps were completed, the science could begin.
How does Webb compare to the Hubble telescope?
The diameter of the main mirror of the Webb telescope is 6.5 meters compared to the diameter of the mirror of the Hubble telescope, which is 2.4 meters, which gives Webb about seven times the ability to collect light and, therefore, the ability to see further into the past.
Another important difference is that Webb is equipped with cameras and other devices that are sensitive to infrared or “thermal” radiation. The expansion of the universe is causing light that is normally in visible wavelengths to shift towards longer infrared wavelengths that are normally invisible to the human eye.