Quintet of galaxies. Nursery of young stars. Exoplanet weather report. And a preview of the death of our own sun.
After years of delays, a 930,000 mile trip into space and months of speculation that James Webb Space TelescopeFirst photos may show NASA on Tuesday released the first complete set of images taken by its $10 billion observatory.
They depict stars in their infancy and on their last legs, as well as stunning views of the cosmos and majestic objects in it.
“Each point of light that we see here is a separate star, not unlike our Sun. And a lot of them probably have planets too,” NASA astrophysicist. Amber Strawn said while imagining Carina Nebulamulticolor landscape of gas and emerging stars.
“It just reminds me that our sun, our planets and ultimately we were all shaped from the same stuff that is here,” she said. “We humans are truly connected to the universe. We are made of the same material in this beautiful landscape.”
As the universe expands, the earliest galaxies are moving away from us so fast that their visible light is stretched to infrared wavelengths that neither humans nor the Hubble Space Telescope can see.
But Webb can. This means that he can see the very first luminous stars. The telescope’s two infrared cameras, the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and the Mid Infrared Instrument (MIRI), each tuned to different parts of the light spectrum, can also peer through the dust and gas that sometimes obscures Hubble’s view.
“The images are absolutely spectacular,” said Andrea GhezUCLA astrophysicist who won in 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for her role in the discovery of the supermassive black hole at the core of the Milky Way.
Later this year, Ghez and her colleagues will use Webb to study star formation at the center of our galaxy. She is one of 286 research teams NASA authorized to collect observations from Webb in its first year.
“I can’t wait to see what these images reveal about the wider environment around the black hole,” she said.
Mishal ResslerA scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at La Cañada Flintridge, who helped develop MIRI, said the sharper images of objects already seen by the Hubble Space Telescope can be overwhelming, but they’re not what he finds most exciting – “It’s actually seeing things that we’ve never seen before.”
All of the images released on Tuesday point to what scientists didn’t know about the cosmos.
“It’s beauty, but it’s also history,” NASA astrophysicist John Mather, a senior fellow at the Webb project, said after the disclosure. “This is the story of where we came from.”
Here’s a closer look at what Webb saw in his first weeks on the job.